“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.”
– Henry Ford
If you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll find hundreds of quotes about listening more than you speak, or about having two eyes, two ears, and only one mouth. And they all sound wise without really explaining why.
Over the last few years, we’ve had the rollercoaster ride of creating and launching a new e-learning product. Of course like any other new digital product, it’s the culmination of many years of experience and a lot of technical know-how and application – but it was a new product. Part of the reason for it’s success is that we’ve let our customers guide the priorities when it comes to new features, and we’ve actively sought out ways to find out how new subscribers are trying to set up their learning in our software – and then changed it for the better.
Talking, talking, talking …..
When you go to market with something that really excites you and that fills you with genuine enthusiasm, it’s so tempting to spend all your time telling everyone how great it is and what all the features are and how clever it is to do all those wonderful things.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone – I only need to be asked “So what do you do?”, and I have to really make an effort not to launch into a 10 minute monologue, guaranteed to bore the recipient into a coma.
My early demos took over an hour to walk people through everything the service could do, without first learning what was needed and what wasn’t. It’s fine to maybe offer up some ideas and features your prospective client may not have thought about, but sitting through more than sixty minutes of a demonstration when only a quarter of that time was of any interest must have been excruciating.
Lessons in listening
Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:
If I give a brief outline of what I do and then turn the question around, I’m far more likely to hear a person talk about their own experiences with e-learning and maybe even some problems they are having. By listening to them and prompting them, I’m going to find out what they are interested in, what their business is about, and what’s really not important to them. And even how I can help them.
Enthusiasm is infectious, so when you get into a positive conversation with someone, their brain starts to apply what you’re telling them to their own situation. What a great way to pick up free advice on the world outside your own experience! You’d be amazed how many features of our service have been suggested by other people – and how many of our own ideas have taken a lower priority because nobody really needs them. Often, our ideas get changed and improved by listening to people who are trying to use our service for real-world activities we never considered.
I certainly know that if we hadn’t listened to people, our Learn with Mobile platform would have been a very different animal. It wouldn’t be priced how people wanted it to be, it wouldn’t have had features that people needed, it would probably have been full of really clever things that nobody ever used, and it would almost certainly have faded into the half-existence of “just another cloud service” – a solution looking for a problem.
And I also know that when a service is feature-rich, a different set of those features is important to each customer – so I need to find out which before I start ploughing into all the rest unnecessarily.
I’m still passionate about what I do
If you’re ever in conversation with me and I start letting my enthusiasm walk all over you – remind me what that wise man John Wayne once said : “You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”. I will thank you for it and we’ll probably have a far more interesting conversation for both of us.
Oh – and ask me to show you the one killer feature that I show everyone whether they need it or not. It makes me smile every time.