We’ve probably all heard the joke about a married couple where the husband said, “My wife says I never listen to her. Or at least that’s what I think she said.”
Millions of books have been written about communication being the key to a good relationship. Most people interpret communication to be the sending of information and forget it’s actually the exchange of information. The only way to exchange information is to listen and not just hear.
Hearing is just sound bouncing off the three small bones in our ears. Listening is taking that sound and paying attention to the content. I could shout quotes from Socrates or Ghandi from the top of my house every day. Neighbors would be hear me, but they wouldn’t actually be listening. Instead, they’d probably call the police about the crazy person screaming from a rooftop. It doesn’t matter the quality of the information I provide if no one listens.
Just like we were taught when we were children, we have two ears and one mouth, which means we should listen twice as much as we speak. That doesn’t mean just waiting our turn to speak. We need to listen to understand.
We teach our salespeople the steps to the sale. We make certain they’re OEM certified with all the product courses, and we train on closing techniques at our sales meetings. We should spend the same amount of time teaching them to ask good questions and then listen to the answers. Sometimes salespeople are so intent on giving the perfect walk-around demonstration and spend 15 minutes explaining horsepower, torque, and fuel economy, that they forget to listen to the fact that the customer’s key factor is cargo space.
The same principle holds true for F&I. We might have the best menu pitch ever, but it won’t do any good if we don’t listen to our customers. How do we know how to overcome an objection if we don’t listen? We’ve learned a zillion different closes to get someone to buy a product, but do we know what to do after they say no? Why are they saying no? Did they have a previous bad experience? Do they typically only keep cars two years? Are they afraid of breaking their mental budget cap? We won’t know unless we ask, and then listen to those answers.
We need to listen as managers too. Just because we’re “the boss” doesn’t grant us immunity from being wrong or automatically grant us “all knowing” status. We should listen to our employees. Not only can we learn from them, but we can also understand them more and forge a solid relationship. That will only happen if we respect them enough to listen.
Instead of yelling at her because she’s been late each morning this week, take the time to find out why. Maybe she has an illness in the family and needs a little understanding. Instead of threatening a job because his numbers dropped from the last six months, ask if something has changed in his life. It’s possible he’s going through a divorce and could use some support. Listening could save a good employee and a good relationship.
Listen to Improve Your Life
The Japanese have a business philosophy called “kaizen.” The word itself means “improvement,” and the business concept from the CEO to the lowest level in the workplace is all about continuous improvement. If we all strive for the kaizen of talking less and listening more, all aspects of our lives should improve.
Lori Church is an experienced F&I manager, a graduate of the University of Denver’s Sturn College of Law, and director of compliance for Holman Automotive.