When you’re conversing with a close friend or significant other, it’s easy to tell when the other person is not really listening or processing what you are saying. Perhaps they respond too quickly after you finish talking or interrupt you. Maybe their answer has little to do with what you were discussing. Think about how you feel when this happens. Now ask yourself, have you ever made a client feel that way?

Generally, you meet with clients or talk to them over the phone for a specific purpose – to discuss their accounts, to catch up or to lay the groundwork for a sale. Yet in every interaction, it’s vital that you put the person with whom you are conversing first and your objective second.

Let me give you an example. If you call a client and ask him or her how the day is going, and he or she responds with a curt “It’s fine,” you can read their true meaning in their tone. If the person sounds downcast but you still move on with the call, getting right to business, you have ignored an opportunity to build client capital and deepen his or her trust in you. However, if you pause, take some time to chat and find out how the client’s day is really going, you have demonstrated that you value the person and don’t view him or her as just another sales opportunity.

Improving your listening skills can also lead to better results for your clients. By establishing a two-way dialogue, you create a partnership through which you can collaborate on problem solving. Also, your clients may be dropping hints – subconsciously or otherwise – that could provide opportunities for you to make additional sales and find solutions that may not have occurred to you before.

Focusing on listening skills as a central tenet of your client relationship management strategy can have an impact on other aspects of your business as well. If you develop a reputation among your clients as a good listener, that can become a differentiating characteristic of your firm and may assist in your marketing and sales initiatives. Since it will no doubt deepen your relationships with clients, they may be more likely to recommend or introduce you to their associates, friends and family.