Friday, March 2, 2012

The lost art of listening

I wrote here before about how marketers should be conversing with prospects and customers. I'm still struck by how many marketing and sales professionals excel at talking and terrible at listening.

Reading from a sales script or 'shouting' about your ultra cool product/service/webinar/video via email, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest is is so much easier than listening to what the prospect/customer/community has to say.

I recently attended a meeting with a sales rep from one of the leading marketing automation tool vendors. Before the rep went into the demo, we mentioned that we are already pretty educated about the tool, we think it can do the job for us, and only have a couple of questions we would love to get answers to.

The rep acknowledged, but rather than answering our simple questions, gave us a 45 minute rundown of every possible feature in the product. "You can do this", and "you can see that". Needless to say the demo was generic and did not relate to any of our use cases. 45 minutes later we again raised our question, just to hear that the rep doesn't know the answer and will need to "get back to us".

In all my years in hi-tech, I have delivered hundreds of demos. One of the biggest questions you always face is when to end the demo. The answer is astonishingly simple - stop when you have reached your goal and the prospect is ready to move to the next phase, e.g. discuss a POC. The problem? You need to listen to what the prospect says. You have to watch his body signals. You have to ask questions.

We have an unprecedented number of communication means, yet it seems we're losing our ability to converse.

The Conversation Prism