Less Talking, More Listening
Picture this: You’re sitting in a meeting for an upcoming product launch or campaign. Product managers, engineers and field salespeople are all present. As the marketing liaison, you’re responsible for planning and executing the campaign that will produce exciting results for the project.
During their presentation you sit there quietly, give an occasional nod and take copious notes. When it’s all said and done, you feel as though you have a good understanding of how to proceed. You listened well, so now you’re ready to get to work on their campaign, right?
Engineers, product managers and sales engineers won’t always be able to readily communicate the information you’ll need to make their campaigns successful. They know everything there is to know about a product or service, but that’s usually not enough. As the marketing lead, it’s your job to find the meaning behind the meaning — to uncover the kernels of information that lead to big ideas that will set their product apart. You simply can’t be a passive participant in this process and find those hidden gems.
Using active listening techniques can help. It will keep you engaged in the discussion and allow you to take full advantage of the limited time you’ll likely have with these experts. Not sure what active listening looks like? Here’s a Forbes column with some advice. Be mindful of making the experts feel comfortable expressing their views, and leave your judgements at the door. If the conversation sparks an idea, respectfully voice suggestions without interrupting. If it gets quiet, be ready to keep things moving.
Ask the Right Questions
While it’s true we learn 85 percent of what we know by listening, we need to make sure we learn the right information to be successful (Forbes). Be prepared with some well thought-out, pre-planned questions to spark conversations and ensure the marketing team will have the essential information for a successful campaign. If you’ve not done this before, here are some starter questions.
- Why did we develop this product or solution? What does it do? Why is it important to our served markets and our own company’s success?
- Who will use our product?
- What problem does it solve for them, and what language do potential customers use to describe that problem?
- Where does the target audience get information? Where do they congregate, physically and digitally?
- What do we need to do to make sure our sales force is successful?
- What is the single, most compelling benefit the audience will realize from using our product? (They’ll tell you all the other benefits without you asking.)
- If your experts keep talking features, ask them, “Why does that matter?” as often as needed.
- How does our audience solve the problem today without our product? Alternative technologies? Similar competitors?
- What do we want to achieve with this campaign?
- What business objective are we trying to meet? What are some ways we’ll be able to measure that?
- What would be the best call-to-action we could offer to a potential customer?
- The ideals
- What does an ideal customer look like? What industries?
- What does an ideal sale look like?
- The outside
- Is there a relevant industry trend or issue that is influencing our target audience that we should be aware of?
There are dozens more questions you could prepare, but this is a good starter set. You may not get all the answers, but you’ll be the ideal active listener if you’re well-prepared.
By the way, if you’re ready to get started on a new project, I’d be happy to listen!