Among dozens of emails, phone calls and webinar offerings, I managed to expose myself blindly to two that focused on one challenge I see many in our career path have to overcome the most – talking too much and listening too little. Interestingly enough, neither of the messages was specifically targeting individual or style shortcomings, and even better, the subject line of these presentations was not about my listening skills at all.
Ok..I’m trying to be objective, but if this is not a moment of serendipity, then I don’t know what is. It also reminds me of the perfect definition of serendipity, I once read: “…is when you come to look for a needle in a stack of hay, and you end up finding a farmer’s daughter.” I love that because it’s a perfect metaphor for how I found my wife. Looking for that proverbial “needle in a haystack” for a partner, I found a beautiful Finnish Farmer’s daughter who’s made my life interesting ever since.
Anyway, the first piece of content is a video from http://www.entselling.com/ that talks about challenges selling in an entrepreneurial environment. It wasn’t focused on the selling or listening style at all. It is very good and I strongly recommend it to just about any team out there, but it was the listening piece of it that really struck a chord with me the most.
I’m old school sales…and I’d been trained on the importance of this skill for selling many years ago, and judging by my performance at the time, I had even learned to apply it on more than once occasion. However, as it may be obvious to people who know me, it is not one of my natural qualities. It seems that the more I get excited about the subject of conversation, the less patient I get with listening to anyone else talk, and it’s particularly true if I think I already figured out what they’re trying to tell me.
I may be right about that, but it doesn’t usually make for much of a great conversation experience, nor does it make them feel that they have been heard and that I actually do understand their concerns or problems. Apparently, it’s a very common problem that ends up undermining many who are understandably excited about their creations to a detriment of their potential customers’ comfort, and subsequently a sales success. Maybe I should start looking for a “shut up and listen” support group. Please let me know if such a group exists. I’ll sign up today.
Now, the second piece was even more interesting and was presented by Rebel Brown at the Defy Gravity webinar sponsored by TreeHouseInteractive. Rebel Brown is a very dynamic and passionate speaker, and she was talking about many marketers trying to use social media as traditional content broadcasting channel. The main lesson I took out of this presentation is about a challenge of the institutionalized listening process that needs to become more a part of a personalized conversation, if a brand wants to be successful in social media. I suppose that no brand will be able to survive without social engagement with their customers, as the customers are creators of a brand. A great presentation at our recent conference in DC reflected that general consensus.
“Advertising can help you sell good products, but only your customers are going to be able to help you build a great brand!”
So, the challenge is in learning what is important to your customers and communicating with them about this, as opposed to focusing on your product or your brand. An interesting thought..and I think the most difficult part is to not assume that we already know what it is, and not be afraid to learn from these open lines of communication.
Rebel also made a great point about the practice of counting followers and “likes” as a result of social media efforts. I will try to paraphrase it here as, “Do not confuse tactical metrics with actual meaningful results.” Let’s face it – these only exist because they are easy to count. Their relevance to business outcomes is very questionable, and the only thing they help to learn is how to manipulate or game the counting mechanisms. Interesting.
I don’t think a “real” marketer can be helped by a mere support group or volunteer 12-step program. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a true “rehab.” All you need is a recovering celebrity. I wonder what Charlie Sheen is doing these days…?