Listening Well Brought Me a Great Client

Communication continues to be one of the core problems affecting our dealings with each other. It is also something frequently mentioned by employers as an area in which many of their new hires could benefit from some improvement.

This is important strategic information: anything you can do to improve your communication skills will tend to give you an advantage over at least some of your competition for the career you want.

I know from my experience that good communication can bring you business: when I was getting started in my new career as an independent “computer guy” I managed to get a good client by listening to him in a way that many of my competitors did not.

I had been helping a local CPA with some computer issues. One day he mentioned a client of his who had been having nothing but trouble with his computer. This in turn was causing my client, the CPA, grief because it was affecting his client’s ability to provide his financial information on time.

Apparently by this time several computer professionals had been out to work on this troublesome PC, all to no avail. The situation was becoming a real problem; even buying a new computer wasn’t a real attractive option because there was so much data on the existing machine.

My client, the CPA, didn’t know if sending me out would do any good or not as I was relatively new in the field. The other techs that had worked on the problem were much more experienced than I was; they hadn’t fixed anything so it seemed like a long shot for me. I suggested that I go and take a look – I promised I wouldn’t hurt anything (“first do no harm”) so there wasn’t really anything to lose by having me give it a shot.

I showed up at the beautiful mountaintop home of the client, Lenny, a highly successful owner of about a dozen fast-food franchises. He and I hit it off rather quickly – he was a real down to earth guy who seemed to be highly intelligent in a very dynamic way, one of those people who catches on to things quickly and just generally has a pretty good feel for what is going on.

By now I had already begun working on the problem, even though I hadn’t even seen the computer yet. I knew that Lenny was no dummy, was highly motivated to get this problem resolved, and that he knew more about the problem than anyone since he had been living with it for months.

I gave Lenny the real “third degree” about what was going on. I paid careful attention to everything he said, which led me in the general direction of what turned out to be the culprit. After some trial and error I made some changes to his accounting software and the problem was solved.

This worked out great for me on two fronts: my CPA client was glad to have this resolved and wound up sending me to other clients of his. And Lenny became not only a very good client but a friend as well.

Lenny told me about some of the other computer techs who had been out to work on his problem. They all seemed to be very knowledgeable about the computers, highly professional, no problems at all in that area. So why hadn’t they fixed his computer?

“They didn’t listen to me” was Lenny’s explanation, “or maybe I should say they didn’t listen enough. They were polite and all that, but they didn’t seem to think that I knew much about what was happening other than ‘my computer’s broken.’ They were the ‘experts’ so they just jumped in and started looking all over the place for what was wrong. And they never did find it.”

I didn’t make the mistake of assuming that because Lenny didn’t specialize in computers, he couldn’t possibly know anything about what was wrong with his computer. Good communication helped me get an important client, which in turn helped my career considerably.

It can help yours as well.