We all know the famous saying, “Humans were created with two ears and one mouth.” It therefore makes sense that we should spend twice as much time listening than talking! While it takes training and self-discipline to achieve the correct ratio, our generation’s greatest men have perfected the art. Sales and marketing people can definitely learn from them.
These past few weeks have been very painful ones for Klal Yisroel, with the petiros of three revered Gedolim: Rav Yitzchok Dov Koppelman zt”l, Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz zt”l and Rav Chaim Stein z”tl. Who doesn’t feel the ache in their hearts and the void amidst our nation?
I raise this subject within the confines of a marketing column because through my work with mosdos and nonprofit organizations, I have been zocheh to have had personal interaction with many of the gedolim with whom my clients consult on day-to-day issues. Through my association with Dirshu and Acheinu, I was privileged to meet with Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz zt’l. I am still deeply saddened by his loss but I will forever appreciate how he related to me with such great warmth and empathy. I will always marvel at his thorough and in-depth grasp of the issues discussed and naturally have deep hakaros hatov for the encouragement he gave me to apply my professional skills and experience to the best benefit of my clients.
In this day and age, many professional marketing techniques have become universally accepted in the Torah world and have been employed to raise significant sums for mosdos and to recruit talmidim to yeshivos. Marketing is an academic discipline, a profession and a business. However, when applied to advance Hashem’s goals in the world, then such work becomes Avodas Hakodesh.
Just recently, I came across an article that reinforced what I learned from my meetings with Rav Lefkowitz, giving me a greater appreciation of how warmth and empathy coexist seamlessly with success in business.
Clay Forsberg, a corporate recruiter and sales coach, penned a piece in a recent edition of Printing Impressions, a bulletin for commercial printers. (A quick thank you goes out to Mrs. Gitty Ostreicher of Edison Litho, who brought this article to my attention). Mr. Forsberg’s style is forthright and his opening premise of “don’t fool yourselves, your customers don’t care about you” was a challenge to every in business person to sit up straight in their chairs and think.
For those of us who are used to pleasantries, camaraderie and even going to ballgames with our clients, such a line comes off as a bit of a shock. What does he mean “my customers don’t care about me?” Didn’t they just invite me to their son’s bar-mitzvah? Doesn’t that prove that he does care about me?
While it’s true that salespeople and customers may attend each others’ simchas or perhaps tee off together, Forsberg is coming to remind us that what our customers really care about is what our product or service will do for them and their lives. “The best way to learn this is to listen. By listening, rather pitching, you’ll find out what’s important to them, and what they’ll react to.”
This may seem elementary, but it really cuts right to the core of the issue. When Forsberg says your average customer doesn’t care about you, he is explaining that customers can be very cold-blooded and calculating. A salesperson must demonstrate that their own service or product will deliver for them, that you really understand them and care about them.
Such caring is precisely what I observed when meeting Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz. He listened deeply and empathetically and then answered succinctly and wisely. Even if the answer to the question was pashut to him; even if he had heard the same question 100 times before, he still heard it out. The gadlus of that is when he proffered his eitzah, a person really knew that answer was tailor-made for him. When someone who you know truly cares about you and gives you sound advice, that’s when you can take it and run with it.
“Imagine if one of your suppliers took the time to get to know you – really get to know you. Would you do business with them? Would you let that person into your life? I’m betting you would,” says Forsberg.
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Be a great listener and observe the impact on your professional growth.
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