change the conversation: new ways to listen to your clients

paying attention to your audience

We recently offered to make a referral to a partner company that was declined because of terminology. The client wanted “SEO,” the company didn’t want to sell “SEO,” and the connection wasn’t made.Unfortunately, both sides of the equation were ultimately interested in the same business objective: increasing visibilty and search engine traffic. The perceived barrier created by one little word split them apart.

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.
Bruce Lee

new ways to listen

How many human relationships have been broken or left unrealized because of an unfortunate choice of words? Too many to count, I’m sure. For those of us involved in sales, one relationship disabled by language is one too many. We’re obliged to take on the burden of using our words with care, and in most cases that means listening to the prospects words and understanding the underlying need. Understanding the client’s point of view, lets you adapt your approach to fit the need. “Be like water my friend,” Bruce Lee said.

Yet, the simple act of listening remains a fundamental challenge that is increasingly easy to overlook. Social media is about outreach, about talking, sharing, broadcasting, engaging. In this world of mandatory grandstanding, being quiet and paying attention would seem more of a flaw than a strength.  We recommend building attentiveness and listening into every outreach process, building feedback loops that create opportunities to listen, learn, and understand your audience.

new ways to listen

Here are five ways you can do this today, many of which are free:

  • website analytics
    Google Analytics provides a wealth of knowledge about how people find your site and what they look at. As you decide what content to add to your site, analytics can help you invest your time and energy in the best way – especially if you have a keyword strategy informing your website. Begin with the Content Overview page within the Behavior menu.Analytics can be a bit much, so there are more approachable ways to get information from your website. A Google Analytics plugin for Chrome will give you a “heat map” so you can literally see what clicks get the most attention on your website.  In addition, SumoMe provides a number of free services that let you see how far people read in the articles you write through a very intuitive and approachable color overlay.
  • email newsletters
    Think of your email newsletter as a survey in disguise, creating opportunities for your audience to express their interests through the links they click on to see more content. You can also create A/B tests that allow you to test different copyrighting strategies. Mailchimp provides a wealth of amazing analytics that give you a huge insight into what is important to your audience.
  • online proposals
    The next generation of proposal tools open up huge insights into your customer’s decision-making process. Tools like Proposify will let you see what content people look at, how long they look at it, and how often they look at it.  Over time, you can study their behavior to make sure your time is invested in the areas that are most important to your client.
  • online research tools
    Resources like Buzzsumo provide amazing insight into what content people are sharing on social media channels. If you want to create content that people share, this is a free resource that can help you invest your energy in a smart, effective way. You can also use it to track your competitors.
  • your ears
    A strategy of active listening to your customers is a tried and true approach for connecting with people. Being flexible and discarding your language in favor of theirs (when appropriate) is part of this process.
Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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