Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Analyzing the example from the previous paragraph of what made the merchant to do what he had done, we find the answer: he put himself in customer’s shoes. He thought of the trips the customer had to make to post office, the problems that could arise during shipping (packages do get lost, with all the tracking systems, even more often than they used to), customer’s disappointment with arrived package and possibility of future lost business with this client. The solution came from understanding and knowing from experience on how customers react to certain things in merchant-client relationships. Thus, by understanding the customer, the merchant was understood by many more people as reliable and trustworthy. It would have turned in much more than $50 in advertising costs should the merchant convey that same message by any other means.
Surely, understanding your peers is just as important as understanding customers. Peers usually see your performance from the side, so while not being in the middle of the things, they could be a perfect source of wisdom at that precise moment when you need that “How does it look?” opinion. Understanding their point of view, listening to their perception of things is very important for understanding how to be heard and pass your message around. And knowing that people will listen to you and understand what you are saying leads us to the next habit.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
How often can you expect to strike a mother lode? That about a thousand times better chance than having a clean win-win situation in business. However, when you are lucky or, speaking in terms of real world, if you are proactive enough and your best laid plans didn’t go awry, then win-win is so rewarding that you’ll easily forget how hard you tried and failed previous 187 attempts at it. Thinking win-win requires a lot of thinking, experience and, of course, a little bit of luck. Turning a situation into a win-win is much simpler then it may look. However, it also demands that win-win attitude for which you need all the previous experience. The perfect example for me was set when I read the story in one of the online forums recently. Customer purchased something worth $50 from a merchant, let’s call it a widget. The sum is average for such widgets, so there is nothing that stands out in this sale. It was supposed to be square, but upon receiving the widget it turned out to be round. Customer calls the merchant and asks for a replacement. The regular process would require a customer obtaining a Return Merchant Authorization number, shipping the widget back to merchant and then waiting for replacement to arrive. Customer was prepared to go through all these loops, as it’s a normal procedure at 99.9% of merchants. What turned this regular business situation into a win-win case? Merchant said “Keep it”. No forms, no numbers, no trips to post office. The proud owner of two widgets for the price of one boasted about it on the forums for several days. The result was ten more confirmed clients to that same merchant and revenue that must have paid for that widget tenfold. All that done with the power of just two words. I call it brilliant.
Upd. This post by Seth Godin is a reflection on a same exact matter.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
There are only 24 hours on any given day, so making each of them count if you can’t prioritize can turn out like jumping the plane with aqualung instead of a parachute. This is where Habit 2 – planning – comes in very handy. It isn’t advertised anywhere, but for most businesses (including mine) there are clients and there are Clients. When several projects collide, knowing the difference may mean everything – from staying afloat to staying in a better suite on vacation. Recently we had to drop a very interesting and ambitious project because working on it meant less time for larger clients and less time for building our own assets base. It wasn’t because there was no money in it, no growth or no interest. It was because it didn’t fit our long-time goals. As the old saying goes – you can’t earn all the money in the world.