Listening is critical to success. That’s what I’ve heard or read three times in the last few days.
The first occurred at a Cablefax-Peppercom daylong workshop for some 26 sales, marketing, operational and IT types representing programmers, broadband providers and multiple system operators. Some of the participants were incredibly savvy when it came to social media; others were relative Neanderthals. Yet, all agreed the key to social media success was to listen to what customers were saying, where they were saying it and how they’d like to be engaged. Almost all agreed that, while they got the importance of listening, their C-suite bosses were still entrenched in the old, top-down ‘…here’s my corporate message’ school of communications. While there are no silver bullets to convince old school executives to cede control to customers, the group did agree on a number of smart strategies to start the ball rolling: suggest a ‘walk before you run’ approach, share what best-in-class competitors are doing and, most importantly, demonstrate ROI.
The next reminder came during a podcast with Joanne Davis, a top marketing search consultant. When asked the number one mistake most agencies make when pitching new business, she said, “Listening.” Ms. Davis said agencies are too quick to force their own thinking and past experiences on a prospective client. Instead, she said, it’s critical to pick up on the verbal and non-verbal cues being sent and provide real-time solutions to the pain points.
The final example came from the book “Your Call Is (not that) Important To Us.” In the text, the author quotes a JetBlue Airlines supervisor as saying he uses ‘sympathetic listening’ with the most irate customers. “I’ve found that a huge amount can be defused by just taking the time to listen. If you’ve got an irate call and the person is in tears, it’s important to take the time and listen— listening for when they’re wound down and then resolving the problem.’
While it seems so obvious, too many organizations continue to pursue a ‘field of dreams’ strategy in their marketing and customer service. It’s not about what we say but, rather, how well we listen to what our customers and prospects are saying that will determine success.