Accidental Entrepreneur: Listen & Listen Well
Welcome to my 15th weekly article as this week is called “Listen & Listen Well”.
Listening to others is a very important skill in life, as it allows an individual to learn new concepts, to validate personal/internal thoughts & to extract situational knowledge.
Being able to ask questions by being prepared and doing research can help you create a lasting impression that can apply to all facets in life.
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My goal is to be able empower folks to go after their goals and reach their full potential!
“செல்வத்துட் செல்வஞ் செவிச்செல்வம் அச்செல்வம்
செல்வத்து ளெல்லாந் தலை”. — திருக்குறள் (411)
“Wealth (gained) by the ear (listening) is wealth of wealth;
that wealth is the chief of all wealth”. — Thirukkural (411)
In the previous article, I discussed the effectiveness of asking questions and ways of approaching others to get answers. Hopefully that article was useful in understanding the tactics and purpose of the “Just Ask” concept. Now the question is out there what is the next important item?!. Listening. Many people throw out a question or assertion and forget to follow through the next simple step of listening. Let’s explore this “Listening and Listening Well” concept a little further in this article.
To Learn: From the early stage of a person’s life, as young as during the age of toddlers, we are all wired to learn by asking questions. Then we look for people and books to find answers to our questions. Early stages, most of the learning occurs through listening. We find trustworthy or interesting people and listen to their stories + experience. The intention with this is to learn and expand our knowledge.
This same concept applies to college life and work. I have seen the best students who follow the lectures and ask pointed questions to the teachers. Sometimes they may argue or even challenge the teachers. This same concept applies during working to build complex products. By identifying the right resources and experts and listening to their experiences provides the knowledge of thousands of books to you if you were to listen well.
I remember during my early career at Rockwell Semiconductor, I went out with many of the well experienced, some of them had 30–40 years of experience in my field, for lunch and I asked them questions. It was something I didn’t take for granted as I listened to them discuss all the various scenarios and experiences (good + bad), when they built products for the Hubble Telescope or Computer Modem. Both of these companies revolutionized the early stage of internet communications. I listened to them and listened Well!!!
To Validate: While I learned by listening to many of these stories, I used the “Listening” skills to validate my thought process many times. What I mean by that is, when there is an intriguing or new question that comes to mind, by using basic physics and sciences, I form an opinion. While I had learned the theoretical answers from schools and books, practical answers come from experiences. I used the listening skills to validate my thought process and logic and adjust the end result by incorporating the real life experiences as well as external factors.
I tend to look for parallel areas to solve problems which I encounter. For example I use the traffic lights in roads as examples for designing high speed circuits in the semiconductor field. Lights are very similar to the latches/flops in the design where the fastest cars (electrons) are kept by red lights to synchronize the movement around the city. This removes the chaos in the streets and makes the movement efficient. I learned this by listening to an architect at my first job and it was so easy to visualize and explain to others later.
Even though I had the book knowledge of these concepts, listening and hearing from others helped me solidify the concept. I continue to exercise my listening skills to learn new concepts as well as validate my own knowledge.
To Extract: Third aspect of listening which applies to my sales career is to use the listening to extract the situational knowledge. What this means is that we may have a unique reason for wanting to sell a product or think that a customer needs our product. Rather than making these assumptions, it is better to first ask the customer to explain their pain point. Then ask them to explain the solutions they are considering. Having all this information and situational knowledge, makes one’s life easier to pitch the product or position the product the right way.
The First thing I learned when I joined the sales team was this concept called “Golden Silent”as it turned out to be an amazing tool. What it means is that after concluding a presentation and a concept, leave a few seconds of “awkward” silence. Similarly, when a customer is speaking about their need, don’t jump to answer the questions. Leave a few seconds of quiet period. Psychologically, those awkward few seconds make people uncomfortable and say something after letting their guard down. This tactic can be very effective in extracting real issues or needs for your product.
Listening is a very undervalued concept used by many people including very smart ones. I have seen many people get annoyed at the way I present and discuss concepts with others. My colleagues would tell me after the meeting that they knew the answer and why they didn’t tell them upfront. It is most of the time intentional to listen to the customers from their own mouth and use that data to position my solutions. How could I have helped solve customer’s problems without Listening and understanding their real pain points. Try this in your life and share with me how effectively it worked on your problems. My friends, Listen and listen Well!!!