The “White Magic” of Listening to Your Market
Stop jabbering like a magpie. Notice what’s actually happening, not just what you think is happening or wish were happening. Look and listen. – Epictetus
A while back a friend gave me a copy of Brian Tracy’s book on advanced selling principles. I found the book relatively useful overall, but one thing about it that stuck with me was Tracy describing listening as a sort of “white magic.” It’s an extremely powerful concept – one most of us understand intuitively but do not practice enough.
Before strategy, there should be listening
Before “solutions,” there should be listening
Before tactics, more listening.
Listening to prospects. Listening to customers. Listening to members.
Then reflection – though it needs to be very fast, agile reflection in many cases.
Only after that is it time to talk or to act.
Tracy points out that the best sales people, contrary to popular notions of them, are more often than not introverts. They don’t come out talking, they come out listening. (As an introvert myself, I happen to support any assertion that the “best” are introverts 😉 )
Opportunities to listen are often right in front of us – especially when you throw a little technology into the mix. In Leading the Learning Revolution, for example, I highlight the success of Ned Campbell, who at the time was senior director of the Florida Institute of CPAs, in leveraging listening to develop a “slam dunk” Webinar offering. Here’s the passage:
If you happen to represent an organization that offers listservers or forums, make it a regular habit to review the conversations on them. You will often find clues that lead to new offerings, and occasionally, you may even find a “slam dunk.” The Florida Institute of CPAs, for example, identified a slam dunk by tuning in to a discussion about “comfort letters” on its federal tax listserver. (A “comfort letter” is a letter from an accounting firm assuring that a com- pany is financially sound.) Ned Campbell, the senior director of education was paying attention, and when he noticed that an initial post about comfort letters quickly led to forty additional comments, he knew there was an opportunity.
“Comfort letters are beyond the scope of what a CPA can typically provide for their tax clients,” Campbell told me. “However, there is a tremendous pressure in the marketplace to provide these letters.” Campbell and his team reached out to a subject matter expert (SME) to get input on the topic and within five days of the first post had put together a two-hour webinar titled “Just Send the ____________ a Letter! Webinar.” Even with the Thanksgiving holiday looming, the webinar quickly generated ninety registrations from the thousand-member federal tax list.
“Our members loved the topic, “ said Campbell. “We provided them a service that was timely and relevant to their business needs and it all came about from a single post on our member community.”
The reason for the quotation marks around “white magic,” of course, is that this is not magic at all. In Ned’s case – as in most – it came down to paying attention and acting. But when an individual or organization does this well and consistently, it sure looks like magic. Because it happens so rarely.
So, enough of me talking. I’m going out to do some listening. You?