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Seek first to understand
12 March 2014, by , in Random Thoughts, No comments

I sit in a lot of meetings with my clients. These could be meetings where I’m interviewing them, or they could be meetings with my client and a vendor, during a sales call or an implementation kick-off.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the most successful communicators in the room are those that take the time to actually listen to the other party, and then confirm they heard correctly what the other person said. Here’s what that kind of communication looks like:

Party 1: “You said your system tracks emails that are sent by staff. But lots of times I send personal emails that I wouldn’t want to be tracked in the database.”

Listening party: “So are you asking, ‘Is every email I send tracked in your system, or can I choose which emails to track?'”

Party 1: “Yes, that’s right.”

Reframing the question to confirm comprehension is an excellent way to advance a conversation and really assure that good communication is happening. (This is often referred to as “reflective listening.”)

Too often, especially during sales demos, I see the salesperson interrupt a questioner, thinking they can anticipate the question or finish the speaker’s thoughts. Not only is it rude, but often it’s just wrong, making the conversation more difficult and more unclear. Simply waiting an additional five seconds, and reframing the question for clarification (like above), would save everyone a lot of time and definitely help make the sale!

My clients often say at the end of meetings with me, “Wow, you really seem to understand what we’re trying to do.” I take that as a very high compliment. And reflective listening is one way I make that happen.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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