The key to growing your business in the next 12 months is not about your marketing campaign. It isn’t about how well you craft your sales pitch. It isn’t even about the periodic price discounts you offer.

The key to growing your business is listening to the stories of your customers. The real business that needs to take place today for long-term sustainability is about relational selling and not transactional selling.

You have a choice. And so does each employee who calls you boss. You can sell or you can listen. The initial sale might be there either way. But the repeat business is all about “the listen.”

We live in a world where we are bombarded by ads, texts, tweets, and emails (most of which we don’t want). We are starving for attention — real human interaction.

Your business might be the only place a customer feels heard all day or even all week.

How does this work?

To start with train your people to ask potential customers, “How are you?” and really mean it. Train your people to let the call go to voicemail when the customer is standing right in front of them. Train your people to keep their eyes on that customer and off the screen.

Train your staff to listen and make that customer feel as if they are the only customer your business has. Make them feel special.

Relational business is about the family, the Packers’ game, the latest issue with the car. It is about life. We can do business with anyone. We want to do business with people who care about us and not just our money.

Relational business involves the sharing of stories. We all love stories. We all have them to share. It is the grown up version of “show and tell” from our earliest school days.

What many of us don’t have is an audience.

You can be that audience for each and every customer that comes your way. In fact, with potential customers, hearing their stories might just be the key to getting their business…the first time and for a long time.

With repeat customers, you can be that audience for the ongoing story that is their life. You can ask how the medical test went or how the kid is doing with the new baby or new house. You can let that customer know that you heard them the last time you spoke and that you’ll be listening the next time too.

Relational business is more fulfilling for all of us.

We have a choice each time we speak with a customer about our business. We can treat the conversation like nothing more than a transaction or we can treat it like an interaction.

What will you choose today?

Ben Merens is a Listening Consultant and Content Marketing Director for Business XLerator in Milwaukee. He can be reached at