Are You Listening to Your Customers?

By JoJo Tabares

What's the best way to fulfill your customer's needs?  Listening!  Many new business owners have misconceptions about what selling is.  They think that in order to be successful, they have to "sell, sell, sell".  And selling means persuading them to buy: pushing customers to sign on the dotted line...hand over the cash--and that takes some "fancy talking"!  The mindset is that, if you talk long enough and loud enough,  you can make your point-convince them to buy and buy BIG!  There are two problems with this theory:
1. Selling isn't actually about talking someone into doing something.  It's about filling your customer's needs.
2. In order to fill your customer's needs, you need to know what they are!  How can you know anything about your customer if you are always---TALKING!? 
Selling is actually the art of listening to your customers' needs and communicating with them how your product or service will fill that need.  Listening: it's the most important part of selling.  It's the most important part of communication!  Listening!  What do I mean by listening? 
When you ask your kids to clean up the living room because guests are coming over in 20 minutes as they are playing Nintendo, did they hear you?  They aren't moving!  lol 
Mom: "Did you hear me?" 
Son: "Yeah, Mom.  I heard ya." 
Mom: "What did I say?"
Son: "Something about 20 minutes." 
Hearing and listening are actually two different things.  Webster's defines hearing this way; "perceived by the ear".  However, listening is defined as "paying attention in order to hear; heeding".   Hearing is the recognition, by the ear, that some sound has occurred.  Listening is the attention given to that sound so that it is understood.  
Oh, understood!  Your son heard you, he just didn't pay any attention.  Believe it or not, many small business owners do the same thing to their customers.  They hear them, but they don't really pay attention enough to understand the significance of what they said.  The difference involves what we call Active Listening. 
Biz Owner: "Our company has the most fabulous widgets"
Customer: "How much are they?"
Biz Owner: "$42.99.  They can slice and dice and chop ..."
Customer: "Oh, no thank you."
Biz Owner: "Our widgets come in several colors to match your kitchen."
What the business owner missed completely was that Mrs. Customer has a problem with the price.  What's the first thing she asked?  If the business owner was actively listening, she would have picked up on the fact that price was a big issue for Mrs. Customer.  She didn't care about what colors they come in or any other features of the widgets because she had already decided not to buy based on the price. 
Now, if the business owner had been actively listening, she could have asked her some questions and let the customer speak in order to learn where she was coming from.  "Is that too much for you to spend right now?"  Maybe Mrs. Customer's husband is out of work and they simply can't afford anything right now.  Maybe doesn't understand what a widget can do for her.  "Well, I don't mind chopping onions."  If the business owner had pointed out all the ways this device could save her money, Mrs. Customer might see more value in that price.  "Widgets can do so much more than chopping onions and save you time and a lot of money on some of the other products you normally buy!"   Save her money?!  Now she's listening to YOU! 
Active listening is not only a matter of paying attention to what your customer has actually said, but other things as well.  1. Reading between the lines.
2. Asking questions for clarification and getting to know your customer and her needs.
3. Showing that you care about your customer and her needs.
4. Responding to your customer's needs by sharing what you can do for them and not what they can buy from you.
Learn the art of actively listening to your customers and you will build friendships that will keep them your customers for a lifetime! 


JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer.  Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula including Say What You Mean When You’re in Business.  You can also find JoJo on web sites such as and  For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit