Listen Up

Listening. It is something that we all do from time to time. Some folks are better at it than others. I’ve been reading lately about how social networking platforms should be used to listen to customers and learn from what they are saying. Social networking gurus are encouraging us to “engage” our customers in conversation. I’ve been making an effort to listen and engage in conversations about decorative glass the past few weeks. Trust me, it takes time and effort to stop talking and to start listening.

When I listen, I hear plenty of decorative glass companies and fabricators talk about their decorative glass on all the social media platforms. They work hard at talking about successful projects and their latest new products. Overall, it’s mostly a game of show-and-tell. There’s nothing wrong with talking, but it’s a one-sided conversation.

When I listen I am hearing that decorative glass is not a subject that professional designers and homeowners discuss among themselves. You won’t hear one designer say to another “Ooh, don’t you just love that Master Carre pattern glass?” Why not? They talk about other materials that way. Is it because they already know the fine details about decorative glass? Is it because they have had a bad experience and now consider it taboo subject matter? Or perhaps, they don’t really understand what decorative glass is and don’t want to look uninformed. All of these possibilities just make me want to ask them, why?

So, I’ve started asking questions and listening. Here’s an example. During a weekly interior designer Twitter chat I asked a group of interior designers “what is the best way for a sales rep to get their foot in the door?” I listened and they told me that “food.” is the magic key to entry and oh, by the way, call them first! By asking and listening, I’ve learned that cutting the food allowance from the sales budget will make it more difficult to add new customers and that cold calling may not be the best approach. That information did not come from the sales or marketing department. It came straight from the source, your next new customer.

It is important to share your successes. It’s only natural to want to talk about them. It’s OK to do that, but talking about how successful our last project was or how great our new product is, isn’t going to get us into a designers conversation. Learning to listen and engage will get us there.