The Art and Science of Listening…or, Is your Agency really giving you what you asked for?

The Art and Science of Listening…or, Is your Agency really giving you what you asked for?

Does your current agency REALLY listen to your needs or, do they have another agenda?

Guest Commentary: Rick Stafford – Brand Advertising Group. a.k.a. “bag boy”

Several years ago I went to purchase a car at a local dealership. I had a basic idea of what I was looking for: brand, model, color, extras and cost. So, I get to the dealership, I am assigned a sales person, they ask a few benign questions to “qualify” me while we take a walk around the lot. At this point all was good; I thought that this person had my best interests in mind and would lead me to the car of my dreams – NOT! In fact, I saw the car I wanted and could afford while we were walking around the lot, but as I approached it, the sales person said: “Oh no, that’s not the one you are looking for; the one you are looking for is over here!” Somewhat puzzled, I looked at the salesperson and said: “Well, based on what I just told you, THIS is the car I think best meets what I want and what I am looking for.” The Salesperson, this time a bit more firmly said: “Well I really think the one you are looking for is right over hear.” Sadly, rather than resist, I relented and went to look at HIS vehicle. It was not at all what I was interested in, in the least!  This game of cat and mouse went on for a while, and I might add – on more than one occasion and more than one dealership over the years. More times than not, I would get to the point of exasperation, get up and tell the salesperson “Thank you,” while scurrying out the door with said salesman and manager in tow saying something like: “I don’t understand, I thought we had a deal, come back and give us a chance!” They had their chance all right, and I was taking my chance to escape before they got their hands on my wallet!

Turns out that in many cases, particularly with cars that are considered older stock, there is an extra incentive to sell a particular vehicle NOT necessarily for the benefit of the customer, rather to the benefit of the dealer and the pocket book of the salesperson…I should have guessed. Agencies and other entities can often do the same: allow us to believe we are headed one direction while they are trying to steer us to a different path. So much non-sense in business today, in relationships and just basic communication becomes futile if not frustrating, simply because we do not ACTIVELY LISTEN to what the other person is REALLY trying to say. Think about it- I find myself resorting to putting what the other person is saying on hold while thinking about what my next point or rebuttal is going to be; have YOU ever done that? I thought so.

People, much more knowledgeable about such things than I, say up to 66% of our first impressions are wrong, WHY? Because we assume everyone does or should think like we do, which of course is either wishful thinking or insanity. Very seldom will we find anyone we become friends or do business with that agrees with us even small percentage of the time. And almost always, when there is a breakdown in communication, it is because we either DO NOT listen or, LISTEN with ulterior motives. ACTIVE LISTENING includes keeping an open mind while the other person is speaking, giving the benefit of the doubt, and believing that the client you seek is telling what they want and possibly how, despite the fact they may not be an expert on the subject matter and you might be. ACTIVE QUESTIONING implies lots of questions; specific, pointed and direct repeated back verbatim for clarification, for instance: “If I understand you correctly, this is what I am hearing YOU say, is that correct?” How many arguments and misunderstandings (and possibly wars and divorces) could be avoided if we simply slow down, ask more questions and put ourselves in the client’s shoes?

One last thought, often it is not WHAT we say as much as HOW. Depending on how you are wired and your background i.e. family, culture, gender, age, education, life experience and the like…HOW you say something or ask a question can many times be more important then the words we use. Again, by several folks who are much smarter about these things, one study showed we interpret what other say when face to face by:

Body Language (How you carry yourself) 55% Tone of voice (Awareness is key) 38% Words we use (Choice thereof) 7%

Let that settle for a moment, the conclusion of this study was HOW you say something is FAR more important than WHAT you say…something politicians have known for ages. On the phone we need to be aware (all the more) of what we say and the tone we use:

Tone of Voice: 86% Words we use: 14%

BOTTOM LINE: Does your current agency ACTIVELY listen? Do they ACTIVELY question? Are they sincere and responsive, do they honor you as a client by taking YOUR wants, needs and desires into account? Or, are they trying to sell you a “car” that benefits their pocketbook, rather than your business and best interests? If not, it might be time for a change…and you can always be assured that with us, it is always in the B.A.G!

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Bluegrass Roots...

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