I have been talking about 2009 being the "Year of Listening". This may be a little ahead of its time as we are still getting sign on for the idea that social media as a doctrine is even worth the space or tab for the business plan or model. I think that social media gives an opportunity to do more listening and less shouting. I even do this in the real world. I tend to sit back and gather intelligence in a situation before I ever enter into the discussion or argument or whatever might be the mode of communication at the time. I get more accomplished by first hearing what is being said and then contributing. I tend to learn more about a subject and the people discussing that subject than I would if I jumped into the conversation early. Many times I have done that I find myself with foot in mouth and backing out of the conversation sooner than later. My first advice to many companies to to listen.
Now the other side of that coin that is usually the first reason many companies are not quick to sign on to the idea is listening does not convert. I have heard many an executive tell me, "listening doesn’t sell." After all that is the bottom line in a company selling your product or your service to the person that holds the money. I recently spoke to a group and later the owner of the company met me in the hall and said "oh good someone that will explain how social media is going to help us SELL." That four letter word is the only one I tend to hear from the likes of those looking at the bottom line. I can assure you if sell is not the goal I will hear other four letter words that will describe certain feelings. It really is only about the sell so how do you impart listening as a way to get the sale? Listening does not convert. Sure that statement might be true but when does your program have the ability to know when someone wants to buy or better yet what they want to buy?
I have been showing some companies that listening actually helps them sell. I like to use the idea behind the tire swing.
Listening actually gets you to the final image, knowing what it is your customer actually wants. The problem with that scenario is that the CEO or head of the department or whoever seems to be the decision maker has to be thinking about all the other panels in the cartoon above. They have learned that making all the other departments happy and still coming in under a budget is what it is actually all about. This is not listening. If more of us actually listened for a while to find out what the customer actually wants, we could sell them that product every time. Perhaps the problem is not that they don’t know what the customer actually wants, its what they can provide the customer from their company. Maybe they sell jungle gyms and not tire swings. This is a problem, and not something that social media will help them overcome. Listening converts but only if you actually listen.
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