The 60/40 rule is easy to talk about, but difficult to do for many entrepreneurial thinkers. Most of us have a lot to say about our idea. Why it’s breakthrough. Why it’s needed. How it works. How much money it’s going to make for the company, etc.
But, the most successful entrepreneurs practice the 60/40 rule in every interaction. The rule is simple — in any conversation, as the person who is conceptualizing, developing, selling or optimizing an idea, you should listen at least 60% of the time; and talk no more than 40% of the time.
This may feel a bit counter-intuitive to some. As an entrepreneur, we need to sell others in on our ideas, right? We need to make sure they understand why it’s such a good idea, and, when we’re launching initiatives within an organization, we need to convince all of the key stakeholders how the idea will seamlessly integrate and turn profit for the company quickly.
However, research and experience prove that the most efficient path to success is to listen, listen, listen. And, importantly, listen first, before we talk.
Listening more, and listening first with the 60/40 rule yields multiple benefits:
The 60/40 Rule Builds Relationships
Especially when driving an initiative within an organization, building relationships and advocacy is a critical success factor. Think about the last “great conversation” you had and/or a person in your life that you would happily spend time with regularly. Chances are, they are someone who has listened to you. He or she has asked you lots of questions — to learn or be inspired by you. Certainly, you talked and learned and were inspired by him or her as well, but it’s likely that you feel “heard” and “understood” with some individuals more than with others.
The 60/40 Rule Builds Understanding
When we ask the right questions and listen attentively, we build our understanding of what’s important to someone. We understand the day to day challenges that are faced by someone that might be impacted by the initiative we’re developing or selling. We understand the profit pressure that a stakeholder feels. We understand the capabilities and passion areas of potential vendor partners that we may choose to work with. We understand the lessons that an entrepreneur or investor has learned. The successful inside entrepreneur leverages this understanding to build a better innovation strategy or initiative.
The 60/40 Rule Builds Success
Listening first allows us to innovate new ways to make our strategy or tactics more relevant and more feasible. This is why it’s critical to listen first…ask more questions than the other person you’re meeting with — then, use the information you collect to talk about your idea in a way that uses their language, and addresses their opportunities and challenges. If you’re in development mode, you’re more likely to identify meaningful builds to your idea; if you’re in sales mode, you’re more likely to make the sale.
Listen more, listen first and apply the 60/40 rule this week in a few meetings and enjoy the benefits.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives