In B2B, we talk a lot about what we should do and say; here’s why we should prioritize listening.
I work with an excellent management coach who has convinced me that one of my weaknesses is (shh) listening.
But she also emphasizes that curiosity is key to being a good listener. And I have always thought of myself as extremely open to new ideas and points of view.
Here’s how I reconcile those two thoughts: I’m currently a far better B2B demand generation listener than I am in my general interpersonal dynamics.
So here are some of the ways I’ve found that staying curious and receptive can improve marketing efforts.
First let’s define listening as:
“Being open to changing your mind given a set of facts or ideas that don’t necessarily concur with your current set of facts and ideas.”
Curiosity helps ensure content relevance.
This is a make or break issue. Only by remaining curious and driven to know will you have the impetus to monitor and analyze customer uptake of your content marketing and social media efforts—and adjust your strategy and content accordingly.
It’s more about presence than presentation.
This has been one of the big lessons of inbound marketing and social media: Instead of simply pushing our messages on prospects and customers, we have to effectively watch, listen and learn what they need by how they interact with our content.
We’re all in this together—so we have to act like it.
Collaboration between sales and marketing is one of the main areas where we allow ourselves to fail. We often simply don’t ask or listen to what sales wants or needs—and it costs all of us in lead leakage. If this resonates with you, check out my Five Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing.
I recently read an interview in The New York Times with Richard D. Fain, chairman and C.E.O. of Royal Caribbean Cruises, that offered some highly relevant insights to the art of listening, and I’ like to share some excerpts with you.
1. On really listening to what people need…
“In grammar school, I did that assignment where you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home, then write an essay on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And when we came to class the next day, the teacher had laid out peanut butter and jelly and bread and knives. “Now, exchange papers and follow the instructions.” And of course only about half the class was able to make a sandwich.
It was an interesting learning experience about how much you take for granted. So I listen carefully for exactly what people are saying, what they’re asking about, what their concern is, and I try to be direct when I answer them.”
2. You don’t have to hold the same point of view to understand your customer.
[Lauren here: That’s actually one of the worst fallacies in marketing, to believe that we think the same way as our customers—unless we really do fit the profile of our target audience. And even then we’re probably biased.]
“Part of my management style is to play devil’s advocate…I learn by arguing with somebody. I learn more about whether somebody really believes their point of view and has thought it through, and it also helps me clarify in my own mind the direction I’m going.”
3. Don’t be a know-it-all. Stay curious.
“Part of the reason I’ve been successful in staying in the role is that I don’t feel that I have a secret…when the times have changed, I’ve changed with the times. And I do think part of it is that I really listen. I’m just insatiably curious. I’m fascinated to hear what people think about things.”
What keeps you fascinated in B2B marketing? And have you started hearing that ’80s Human League song in your head yet?
“One truth may need some rearranging…and plain to see the facts are changing…” It could be a B2B anthem, really. (But maybe it shouldn’t be.)
Don’t forget to share your insights on communication and curiosity in the comments—my inquiring mind wants to know.