How Active Listening Can Grow Your Business

By Andrea Rosenfeld on July 8th, 2014 / Comments

A brand new acquaintance sat down with me on conference chairs. We were facing each other staring intently, bodies loose but tingly, words flowing.  We had just met at the networking event and were looking over an innovative, art exhibition website he’s building. I listened closely as he passionately explained the concept and strategies.  The rest of the conference melted away.

listening photo 1
Photo credit: Philippe Moreau Chevrolet at

I didn’t speak but I let his idea soak in, searching for added value that he may have missed.  Suddenly, BAM!  “What if you…“I jumped into a sponsorship concept that popped into my head.  As I dove further into my idea he stopped moving and I saw his eyes roll slightly up to the right. I knew he was in agreement.  Looking back at me, he smiled wide and shook my hand visibly excited. As we left our impromptu meeting with a skip in our step our intense engagement and connection dissipated and the room opened up, other voices and faces again apparent.

What contributed to two strangers creating a powerful yet fleeting relationship in that scenario?  Active listening.  As a consummate connector, I work hard to make sure magic like that happens often because it’s damn cool, adds adventures to my life and helps build my business.

Have you ever been in a pseudo-conversation with someone who talks non-stop about themselves, while you politely nod and frantically scan the room for a fast exit, COMPLETELY uninterested or connected? Now think about someone in your life that, during a conversation, looks at you, keeps relatively quiet while you speak, is interested in what you have to say and answers or questions intently. You leave that conversation full, happy, educated and uplifted by the experience. Which would you prefer to work with?

Don’t force potential clients to scan the room for an exit. Be the listener who engages and connects with them. This helps you truly understand your customers needs.

Ask the pertinent questions. Understand that asking pertinent questions and actively listening to what people are saying is as important as speaking of yourself and art, if not more.  Why? Because you need to learn what your costumer needs so you can pinpoint your sales to them AND how you engage with others represents your business and the way in which you run your company.  Who in their right mind wants to do business with an artist who’s constantly talking, looking at their phone or scanning the room?  Not me.

Know what type of listener you are. Wanna create better relationships and sell more art?  Begin by looking at yourself to see what type of listener you are and then decide what type of listener you’d like to become.

Listening is an art too. Listening well is similar to working in your studio.  You create through composing physical materials as well as the negative space left untouched. So when listening, don’t concentrate merely on the words being said, but view the person’s body language, their pauses and what they don’t say.  A lot of it is intuition but you can’t be intuitive if you aren’t “present”or involved in the conversation.  Just like a painting, view the positive and negative space the person expresses.

Silence can be very powerful.  Use the power of a long pause if you are waiting for the other person to add more information. If you resist the temptation to respond (and my goodness it’s tempting!) your client may fill the space with an elaboration or move the conversation to another great topic.  Either way, it allows you to learn about that person and their needs.  Again, to sell your artwork you have to know what your client needs.

My active listening tends to shut off when I’m introduced to someone.  I become so busy taking in their physical form (I’m a visual learner) that I miss their name entirely or I hear it and but it floats away while I’m focusing on them speak.  If this happens to you, slip their name into the conversation a few times.  I also immediately put their info into my phone so I don’t forget it.

If you find yourself moving back to your comfort zone of non-listening (mine can be quickly adding my own comments because I’m excited to express myself and help) don’t beat yourself up.  Understand that you’re always a work-in-progress and re-commit to the change in your listening and communicating style. These will help you better understand your customers and in turn help your business grow.

Thank you for listening!

Other educational tools: 8 Tips to Become a Better Listener  and The Best Five Tricks to Remember Names

Read the previous Mind Your Art Business article for Michipreneur:  Beat the Heat: the Artist’s Guide for a Successful Festival Season,or connect with Andrea anytime to learn more about art business news and information.

About the Author

Andrea Rosenfeld

A professional artist, business consultant and former Director of Merchandising and Operations for Isaac Mizrahi, Ltd. is the Founder/CEO of Detroit Art & Business Institute. DABI increases the value of artists and entrepreneurs through best business and healthy relationship strategy education and community advocacy. DABI offers artists, makers and designers various options to profit from and enjoy their creative enterprise; targeted, private consulting; group seminars; 8-week courses; and art brokering programs. To further strengthen the art sector, DABI is popping up D*FINDS, a studio supply, consignment boutique. An advocate, Rosenfeld mentors creative entrepreneurs and is active in the local art community. For more information about Andrea Rosenfeld, her DABI business education programs and events, visit: