Assumption is the KILLER of opportunity.
When we assume we make stories up in our heads about what our experience or expectations should be. In business the act of assumption can lead to major loss of opportunity simply because many of us aren’t aware we’re making the mistake in the first place.
Many of us do this, including me!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an interesting workshop put on by Mark Leblanc, small business guru, author and keynote speaker. Marc’s approach to success in the small business world was straight forward – take things one step at a time and measure your success constantly.
Throughout the morning Mark covered a variety of topics ranging from the 9 best small business practices to high value activities. As the morning came to a close I caught myself laughing as I had recently committed one of the simplest mistakes people can make in business. I didn’t just do one of them, I did both on Mark’s list which he refers to as the ‘Two Deadly Business Sins’.
Are you an assumption sinner?
Business Deadly Sin #1:
If my customer wrote me a check once they’ll call me if they need me again
Business Deadly Sin #2:
If my customer wrote me a check once they automatically know all that we can do for them
(note: the word ‘customer’ is meant to reference an actual external customer however it can also be considered an internal colleague, cross functional team or business unit if you do not interact with external customers)
The first of our two delightful sins points at the assumption that if we’ve done business with a customer once they will “of course call us back the next time they need help”. This couldn’t be farther from the truth yet so many of us in sales, services, entrepreneurship, small business, you name it, fall victim to this fallacy.
Mark further shared with us that it’s not uncommon for our customers to think “Matt hasn’t called me in a couple months, he must not want to do business with us any further.” The assumption on Matt’s end that the customer will just call him when they’re ready furthers the issue as Matt doesn’t follow up leading the customer to believe he’s no longer interested in their business. For Pete’s sake! That couldn’t be farther from the truth it’s just Matt doesn’t know it yet.
The second deadly sin addresses the assumption that if you’ve done business with a client once they should then automatically know every aspect of your business, where you can help them and where you can’t.
If you’ve ever had a customer say “Gosh Jillian, I didn’t even know you offered that type of service. We would have loved to work with you but we just signed up your competitor because we weren’t aware you could help us in that area.” It’s like getting slapped in the face with a wet leather belt which leaves a welt for weeks. Your customer, who self admittedly loves working with you, went to your competitor for help simply because they didn’t know you could help them. Ouch. (and yes, I’ve actually done this more than once)
So how do we remedy this?
Let’s start by focusing on never assuming about the relationships you may or may not have with your customers or what they know about your product or service. It’s always better to pick up the phone and call rather than wait for the phone to ring on your end. Take the initiative!
When speaking with your customer ask questions about how their business is doing and which areas they need help in the most to best determine how your product or service can be a value add to their pain points. Remind them often about what you do and how you do it. Be consistent!
Zip it up! Not the fly on your knickers. (then again, if your fly is down please do zip it up)
Zip it, your mouth that is! Our mouths enjoy writing checks our bodies can’t cash and it’s going to catch up with us in a hurry, if it already hasn’t.
Are you getting a bit agitated that someone would tell you to close your mouth and listen? Don’t worry, I struggle with this as well, along with the large majority of leaders in business, politics, sports…you name it.
I’m writing this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek on purpose, but I promise my brazen efforts are only to share with you a great truth about leadership. That truth is the art of listening. As in, not speaking and allowing others to talk, a foreign concept for many of us.
Why is listening an important habit to develop to be a good leader? Those who possess the ability to listen earnestly experience deeper relationships, advanced awareness of how they show up and how others are impacted by them (EQ), are genuine in their care for others and are touted as being “leaders people would run through a wall for”. To become an exceptional leader, you must develop your ability to listen.
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not very profound. I listen all the time.” But, do you really listen?
Let’s see how good of a listener you are. If you’ve done one of the following in the last week you’ll want to continue reading this article:
Why is it we don’t listen? Short answer – our egos get in the way of allowing someone else the stage to talk.
The long answer – Perhaps you’re the exception as your listening skills are top notch. For everyone else out there, which I’ll gladly throw myself into this boat, as leaders we struggle with listening. We tell ourselves that others are wrong; only we know the truth; “I don’t have time for this”; I can multi-task while we’re talking; my point makes more sense; they’re idiots; they must not see the big picture (love that one); they have to hear my side before we can move on, etc. With so much going on in the world today it’s easy to fall into the trap that you don’t have time to have a conversation, especially if that conversation isn’t of grave importance.
Leaders – read closely here. The success of your job depends on your ability to listen. Forbes writer Glenn Llopis says that when “leaders judge, they expose their immaturity and inability to embrace differences.” Did you know that your act of not listening actually sent such a strong communication to the person on the other end? Imagine how it made them feel!
How can we fix this?
Short answer – zip it (our mouths that is) and focus on the person in front of you.
Long answer – put away your phone, your work at hand, close your computer screen or turn it off, close your door for that matter and stop mulling over that rerun episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians you watched for the sixth time last night. Do whatever you need to in order to give the person on the other side of the table your complete and undivided attention.
WHY should we focus on being better listeners?
If you haven’t come to the conclusion by now, we may need to get some backup in here asap. Let me get to the point then. Your job and career as a leader depends on it.
People follow and support leaders who live a servants’ mentality which means when their people have an idea, a question, a problem, or a wild haired suggestion, they listen as if listening is going out of style. Being a servant doesn’t mean a leader is weak, it means their people and company come first, before themselves. Conversation is the gateway to a persons’ mind, body and soul. Its best we listen or we’ll run the chance of missing out on some truly incredible moments.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.