FREE TRAINING: 3 Keys to Sell Your Business with Confidence

Listening … the Easy Growth Strategy

“Growth is an easy concept to understand,” he told me. “All you have to do is sell more of your existing products to new customers, or get new products to sell to your existing customers.”

Allen (not his real name) had not gone to business school. He had not gone to college. I’m not sure he ever graduated from high school. But Allen was one of the smartest men I ever met. Though he had no formal business education, he understood business better than many high-paid corporate executives I know.

I wasn’t talking to Allen because he was selling his successful business. He had already made the decision to pass it on to his niece. But I got to know Allen many years ago when we served together on a non-profit board. Through that interaction, we became friends to this day. I value his insight, advice and perspective more than anyone I’ve known since my father.

So when Allen gave me his “growth-is-easy” line of thought, I couldn’t dismiss it as a wisecrack. Allen was serious. He explained to me how he had grown his travel company from a local booking agency to one of the most successful tour companies in the United States. “The customer tells you all you need to know,” Allen told me. “Too many business owners spend their energy trying to tell customers what they want, instead of listening to customers tell you what they want. I wasn’t smart enough to do the convincing, so I had to rely on my listening.

Allen has an unusual instinct to connect with people. Everyone who meets Allen seems to think he is one of their best friends. To this day, I can’t really figure out how it works. But Allen’s ability to connect with people, and listen to them carefully, is the purest formula for business success I have ever seen.

Working with scores (maybe hundreds) of business owners over the years, I’ve seen few with Allen’s instinct to listen and learn from their customers. “Listen to your customer” is not exactly breakthrough business advice, it’s a concept taught in every marketing class in every business school. However, listening is different from understanding, and listening doesn’t come from research, focus groups or corporate planning. Listening comes from engaging with your customers. They will tell you all you need to know about how to grow your company.

The following two tabs change content below.

Tennessee Valley Group

Jim is an attorney (non-resident status with the Missouri Bar) and though he no longer practices law, he has read and negotiated enough legal documents to fill a cargo tanker. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and knows how Wall Street and private equity operates. Jim is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 listed general civil mediator with tons of experience helping business owners (large and small) work through sensitive problems to achieve winning results. He is the author of "Home Run, A Pro's Guide to Selling Your Business, Seven Principles to Make Your Company Irresistible."

Latest posts by Tennessee Valley Group (see all)