Listen and Learn

Communication is all about talking right? Telling, showing or somehow delivering your message to another person, group or community. Ok, sure, that’s right. But how are you going to do that if you’re not taking any information in, too?

Talking is, in fact, only 20% of networking. The other 80% is listening. Don’t believe me? Think about the smartest, most successful person you know. When you see this person, is s/he talking? Or is s/he listening to what someone else is saying? Asking questions, probing for new insights, finding the way to a fresh perspective or new idea? At minimum, this shrewd networker is listening so s/he can drill into the exact things that make the other guy tick. Then, when s/he goes in for the sale, it’s zeroed into the most relevant info.
I think of Janet when I think of this. I’ve never worked with her, but in the ten years I’ve known her, she’s had about eight jobs. Mind you, she’s in sales. So you know she’s not making it because she can’t last past the first year hump at any one job. The funny thing is, dammit, Janet is juiced. She knows everyone, everywhere. She should be an unbelievable salesperson. I mean, the mental rolodex this girl has should be enough to produce a book of business that puts her at the top of any game she’s in. But in fact, no matter what category of business she’s handled, she’s failed.

I wondered this until last week when I saw Janet at an industry function. She comes up to me, “Oh my god, Paaat. I’m so happy to see yooou! I’m doing insurance noooow! And I’ve always admired you for your work—I’m mean, you’ve been there for like, fifteen years now or something, right?” Before I get a chance to respond, she continues, “So I came here after trying a lot of different things because I just love insurance. I see so much opportunity. I know so much about it since I’ve worked in so many different fields. And they all need insurance. I mean, I can really help clients across a lot of different categories because I know so much about all kinds of businesses…”

And it dawns on me why Janet can never succeed. She thinks she already knows everything. Remember: Networking is about growing. If you don’t stop talking and start listening, how will you ever learn?

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