Several years ago, I invested in performance training for wedding entertainers, taught by two of the best in the business, Bill Hermann and Jason A. Jones of The Entertainment Experience. In session one, The Power to Create, they discuss five techniques: Listening, Story, Transitions, Staging, and Performance.
However, they discuss Active Listening, the kind where we are discussing something with someone and reacting to the words being said. It’s incredibly powerful.
Yet, there’s another, higher level that I learned from my friend John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. About two years ago, he introduced me to Perceptive Listening. In his book Duct Tape Selling, Jantsch defines it as the practice of active listening, “but also consider what the person isn’t saying, what she might really be thinking, and how she is acting as she speaks.”
The truth of the matter is that good questions always trump even your best answers. To that point, the best consultants ask great questions instead of trying to provide great answers. You need to remember, people love to talk about themselves. After all, it’s theirstory.
For weddings, this is exponentially true. Find a way to get your couple to imagine their wedding day unfolding, have them describe it to you. Let her tell you what the walk down the aisle is going to be like. Let him tell you a silly story about his best man. Watch and observe them as they do this. If you need to uncover more, ask questions that dig deeper.
At first, finding the right questions may not be easy. Over time, you’ll build a toolbox of questions that help you become a better listener and set you apart from competition. Here’s just a handful that can get them talking or expand upon an idea:
- Why is that a problem?
- What does that mean?
- What does a successful event look like to you? (Make it measurable.)
- What do you enjoy most (or least) when attending weddings?
- What haven’t I asked yet?
Begin the practice of Active Listening and not only will you find out more about their vision, but you’ll discover if you are a good fit to fulfill it. If you’ve done it right, your client will start sending you buying signals as well with questions of their own. Bob Poole, author of 6 Dozen Doughnuts: Put More Money In Your Pocket While Delighting Your Customers, says that true buyers have lots of questions. Some buying signals (client questions) to listen for include:
- They ask to something again or to explain something again.
- Asking for guarantees or ways to take the risk away.
- About what other customers think of whatever it is you are selling.
- Anything having to do with cost or price, or even financing/affordability.
- About the validity of your statements, your company, or yourself. They are looking for proof that what you say is the truth.
So how can you tell if someone isn’t interested in buying whatever it is you’re selling? Poole contends that they have very few questions at all. “I have always taught my clients that it is easier to listen someone into buying something than it is to sell them something”