"You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time."
— Best-selling author M. Scott
It all started on the day I stopped listening. After all, why waste that valuable time hearing someone else ramble on when I already knew what they were going to say? Instead, I could plan my next activity!
Want to know how the day went? I kept a journal and am sharing it with you:
8 a.m. — Status Meeting with Boss
During my one-on-one, my boss asked me to finalize a presentation for an important prospect the next day. To improve it, he shared specific notes on changes he wanted to see. He also requested that someone on my team set up a conference room for the meeting. Unfortunately, I was too busy thinking about sales projections to really take in what he was saying.
Consequences: I showed up to the meeting without having made all the changes my boss requested — or setting up our conference room. Oops. Now I have a client who feels unimportant … and an angry boss.
11 a.m. — Coaching Session with Direct Report
My next meeting was with a high-performing direct report. I’ve heard great leaders take an interest in their employees, so I asked about his professional goals. He told me he loved sales, but would ultimately like to move into management and inspire other rainmakers. I could’ve offered to help him find opportunities to gain some leadership experience. But I was concentrating on what I was going to say in my next meeting.
Consequences: Because I didn’t really hear his desire to develop other sales stars, I didn’t make it a priority. Though he probably left my office feeling excited to have me in his corner, this rep has grown increasingly frustrated and discontented with his job. We might even lose him.
2 p.m. — Discovery Meeting with Prospect
After lunch, I met with a potential customer for the first time. I asked all the right questions to determine the company’s business challenges. The team told me all about their mission, their industry, and the key benefits they were hoping to get from Silverpop’s marketing automation platform. But once again, I was distracted by other thoughts and barely listening.
Consequences: My team delivered a canned proposal to this company about Silverpop’s technology. It barely mentioned the client’s specific business and industry, or incorporated any of the data I should have heard. We’ll likely lose their business to one of our competitors.
5 p.m. — Conversation with My Wife
I was getting ready to leave the office when my wife called, asking if I’d pick up dinner on my way home. I said “OK,” but I was multitasking so by the time I got to my car, I’d completely forgotten about it.
Consequences: When I came home empty-handed, my wife was upset, and the kids were hungry. I narrowly avoided having to sleep on the couch.
So, in just one day without listening, I managed to anger my boss, lose a client, derail the commitment of a valuable team member, and not provide my family with supper. Yikes.
OK, I’m joking. None of this happened. But when I sat down to plan this blog series on the importance of listening, I wrote out what would hypothetically happen if I really stopped listening – and the results weren’t pretty.
Think about what your day would be like if you did the same. I bet the exercise would be as revealing for you as it was for me, particularly in the lessons it teaches marketers. There’s a lot of talk about delivering the right message in the right place at the right time. But, often what’s missing is the DNA of what drives a real-life conversation: progressive, personalized interactions that involve listening, sharing and then listening some more.
The Lesson for Marketers
When we don’t carefully listen to our contacts across channels and platforms, we can’t respond properly. We miss out on important opportunities to engage them and build valuable relationships.
Companies do this all the time with their digital marketing campaigns. For example, they ask online users to provide names, birthdays and general interests, but then never do anything with that information. Instead, they deliver the same canned message to everyone.
In the digital world, where shoppers expect the personalized “Amazon experience,” this is a big mistake. It’s a wasted opportunity to listen to and follow up on what your customers are telling you.
But don’t just take my word for it. Read about IBM’s recent announcement that it would acquire Silverpop. They’ve placed their bet on the value of deep customer insights and delivering a 1:1 personalized experience to buyers. So can you.
That’s why, over the next couple months, I’m shifting gears. We’ve talked a lot about listening the last few months. Now it’s time to explore the next step: How to personally respond to what you hear from your customers, online and off.
1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue”
2) Blog: “Implicit Preferences: Tracking Behaviors”
3) White Paper: “Creating Real-Time Individualized Campaigns Around Every Imaginable Customer Behavior”