Sitting at the conference table, one thing was obvious: everyone was talking, but no one was listening. That’s how most meetings in the corporate setting go.
As a young punk, fresh out of college, my approach was different. I listened to everyone else and then chimed in with my idea, usually in the form of a question with an obvious answer, after everyone else had finished talking.
At the end of one meeting in particular, just after I finished sharing my perspective on the topic de jour, the executive in charge of my division said to the entire room full of managers and executives, “Have you noticed how JP sits there and says nothing for the entire meeting, and then says the most important thing that no one else thought to say?” Everyone looked at me and nodded in agreement.
There were a lot of people in the room who were smarter and more experienced than me. I wasn’t a manager or executive…I was the “data guy” as they called me. It’s amazing that I was even invited to those meetings.
So why was I given credit for saying “the most important thing that no one else thought to say?”
During those meetings back in my 20’s, I listened while everyone else talked.
Being the youngest person in the room, I certainly didn’t want to overstep my bounds or lodge my foot in my mouth, so I absorbed instead of talked and let my mind crunch the data.
Then, usually at the end of the meeting, my mind had finished crunching and I asked my question with the obvious answer. That allowed everyone else to come to the same conclusion on their own without “the kid,” as I was also called, telling them the answer.
Now, maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but I honestly think the reason I was able to see things that smarter and more experienced people couldn’t, was because I listened.
That allowed me to process everyone else’s thoughts and organize them into a perspective that seemed obvious once I shared it, but was overlooked by those who talked more and listened less.
I’ve carried this practice with me throughout my career. And as my sales guy, Patrick, can attest, it’s still at the center of my business and sales philosophy.
Rarely does a day pass without me saying, “Talk less. Listen more.” It’s one of our mantras.
Earlier today, I was on a joint sales call with a sales guy from another company who did a product demo for a potential client.
The product is very cool. In fact, it’s so cool that the sales guy couldn’t stop talking about it.
Even when the prospect attempted to interrupt to ask a question, the sales guy kept going and talked right over our potential client.
As a general rule, when someone has to interrupt you to ask a question, it means you’ve been talking too much.
If you catch yourself doing that, an easy way to derail your runaway mouth is to simply say, “You know…I’ve been talking a lot. Do you have any questions?”
Then listen to what they say.
I didn’t fully appreciate the value of listening way back in my corporate days. It wasn’t a conscious decision…I was afraid to talk until I knew I had something valuable to say.
Looking back, though, I think that skill may be one of the main reasons for my success in life and business. It’s a skill that few people are good at, so if you master it, you’ll be different than everyone else.
It’s a simple skill with a simple mantra: Talk less. Listen more.