Marketers, sales people and customer service people listen to lots of people with different roles and concerns. There are prospects, the people you meet at networking events, vendors, your partners and other associates, your fellow employees, those who comment on your blog, and so forth.
They're all people with their own concerns and thoughts of WIIFM - what's in it for me.
When people ask themselves questions, they become more involved and focused on the conversation. As you engage more and more in social media, you'll find it is all about engaging in the two-way communication process.
14 questions to ask yourself when you are truly listening:
1. How does what I'm hearing relate to previous conversations?
Have your email open or, better yet, the history tab in your CRM application to quickly remind you. What has changed? Is there more urgency or a different voice reflection?
2. What's the underlying, perhaps hidden, theme here?
There is always more going on than you know. Ask clarifying questions to confirm what you are hearing. One technique is to ask why three times and you'll eventually get to a root cause of an issue. Of course be careful not to come across sounding like a police interrogation.
3. What can I learn from what I am hearing?
I find that by asking this question you quickly are able to summarize the conversation and determine next actions. Record this information directly in your call notes in your CRM system!
4. What are the pauses, chuckles, silences, body language, voice tonality and other background clues trying to tell you?
A whole field of study exists to help you understand these clues of human psychology so that you can more quickly and deeply understand what's happening in the conversation. I encourage you to improve this perceptive skill because it will pay lasting rewards.
5. Are my prior experiences - and yes, even prejudices - preventing me from learning something about this person and what he or she is saying?
I find that it is extremely helpful to be able to change perspective, flip the situation around or look at this from a different role. You will catch yourself not being as open-minded as you could be. Instead of shutting off learning, use that prior experience to gain a deeper understanding more quickly.
6. Using your vast experience in your product and services, what unique perspectives can you bring to the table?
I find entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals are very good at this and bring value to the conversation. What solution have you provided in the past that may be used for this current situation?
From a CRM prospective, I have many clients who have built up a wealth of knowledge in their resolutions to support and service issues. Prior solutions found from the closed tickets can be quickly brought up and applied to similar issues.
7. Rather than looking for that One Right Answer, are there multiple answers?
A useful exercise is to look for 20, yes 20, different solutions. When you engage your creativity, you'll find the later answers are thoughtful and probably unique.
As business relationship development consultants, we do a lot of listening. I have found in 37 years of marriage, family businesses and raising kids that this is a well honed asset.
And since we also implement successful CRM systems for relationship development, we want to make sure they solve the challenges and take advantage of opportunities we hear.