I’ve spent the last two weeks buried in communication related activities.  Websites, social media, conferences and events, coffee, pitch practices, conference calls and the list continues.  I’ve noticed our culture (and especially startups) have a hole in their communication skills.

No one really listens.

I coach people all the time.  We talk about business, pro formas, technical and scientific results and data, and a plethora of subjects.  What is find is a large proportion of the people I spend time with don’t listen. Not because what I have to say is so important, but because it WORKS!!

Here’s an example:  I’m observing someone on a call this week with a well-known coach for an upcoming meeting.  Now this conference offers the startup an opportunity to potentially connect with industry giants.  You know, the kind that buy your company if you position it correctly.

So what happens on the call?  The founder spends his time telling the coach what he SHOULD believe about his product.  How well-written his summary is, and at point even says…”if you would just let me finish…”.  I’m sitting there, fascinated.  This is a brilliant individual who can truly benefit from what this coach has to offer.  Likely significantly benefit from an introduction.  And most of the conversation is spent with the founder talking, not LISTENING.

Hiring people, raising money, selling your idea/product are all based on relationships.  If you would first ask about THEIR background, ask about THEIR needs and let them tell THEIR story, you are likely able to get more traction with them.  All of these exercises are crucial in a startup where teams are small, relationships are key.

This week I encourage you to ask about the other person first, LISTEN closely, pause, paraphrase what they said, and only then, talk about you, your product, your funding needs, etc.  With practice, believe me, you will be more successful.  You also won’t put your foot in your mouth as often because they will TELL you what they need, want and how to work with them.

Just a thought….