Getting to the point where our marketing teams can empower the sales conversation with uniquely insightful content and perspectives first requires building a buyer context that has depth and breadth, in both the generic and specific senses. The generic context informs our knowledge of the language and issues pertaining to our target buyers’ industry, market(s), and personas, while the specific context addresses the individual’s particular needs and challenges. From this understanding, we can then create uniquely customized relevance. Successfully navigating this process requires three key activities:
- Active, ongoing research to identify relevant drivers and challenges
Creating relevance requires current, accurate information that paints a complete picture. To this end, carefully select robust, credible, and varied sources. Fleshing out the generic context will help you see beyond the obvious to provide unique insights. Look to industry news, blogs, and analysts for industry insights, but also look to social media to gain the popular perspective (read our post, Developing Customer Intelligence for Sales Enablement). Pay attention to the questions being asked and the content being shared. And also seek to understand overlapping industries and contexts, in an effort to see around the corner to issues that could affect your target market. A well-crafted survey can be a great tool for both customized market research, as well as a vehicle for driving customer engagement.
- Conscious listening for real understanding
Nothing is more effective for gaining a prospect’s specific, individual context than going directly to the source: the customer. Interviews, surveys, and accompanying your sales rep on a call are all highly effective ways of learning about target audiences. So, too, are conversations within the organization with all client-facing team members (e.g., sales, customer service).
Yet to get more out of these conversations and interviews, sound consultant Julian Treasure advises us that while “listening is our access to understanding, conscious listening creates understanding.”[i] To illustrate how poorly we tend to listen, he cites study findings that indicate the average person only hears about 25% of what is said to them. In order to listen more productively when engaged in a conversation or interview, Treasure cautions us to move out of “broadcast mode” (where we speak more than listen). Rather, he suggests we become more aware of our own subconscious mental models through which we filter all information – our culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions – in an effort to truly hear what the speaker is saying from their perspective. Treasure also suggests utilizing the acronym RASA:
- Receive – Limit your speaking to no more than 25% of the conversation and check inherently judgmental mental models at the door.
- Appreciate – Show your speaker that you appreciate, respect, and are actively listening to what they are saying by making listening sounds such as “mhmm” and displaying encouraging body language, such as nodding and making eye contact.
- Summarize – After the speaker finishes, summarize your understanding of what they’ve said to ensure you are both on the same page.
- Ask – Clarify any ambiguities and show interest in your speaker by asking thoughtful questions.
- Apply commercial insights as a key differentiating tactic
Entice your way into the purchase process sooner with insights of commercial value synthesized from your research. In this manner your can address from a new and intriguing angle the vexing business problems that your prospects are wrestling with. By demonstrating a credible, relevant, and frame-breaking perspective, you can disrupt your buyer’s conventional thinking and trigger buying decisions in your favor. Insights of commercial value equip your sales team with a true point of differentiation by helping prospects see beyond their limiting mental models.
The complex world we now operate in requires a comprehensive approach to information gathering in order to grasp the big picture view needed to accurately identify relevant and complex drivers and challenges. By understanding that there is no such thing as ‘objective reality,’ and gaining an appreciation for the mental models that shape all individual perspectives, we can learn to better synthesize our findings and truly hear what is being said. Getting these elements right helps organizations anticipate the needs of customers, empower the sales conversation, and truly differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.
To learn more about how to use lead generation surveys as a highly effective and efficient way of conducting market research, while engaging your prospects, read here.