The First Question You Should Ask Any Client: What an Oncology Doctor Taught Me About Social Media
There are times when I wish I could shut off my marketing brain. It seems to trigger automatically, no matter where I am or what I am doing. This last week, that “somewhere” was in the office of an oncology doctor with my parents.
When the oncologist began speaking to my father and the words fell on our aching hearts, I became mesmerized by the doctor’s methodology. Perhaps it simply served as a distraction from the reality we were experiencing, but the very first question out of her mouth had real power for me. It triggered all the bells and whistles of my marketing brain and had me on full alert.
The First Question – What Do You Understand?
So, what did she ask? She asked “What is it you understand about where we are at in this situation right now?”
As my marketing brain was vibrating, I thought to myself how I didn’t ask that first question in quite that way to my social media clients. When I meet with a new client to hopefully close some business, I have been much more urgent to tell them what I could do for them, to convince them I was the one, to make sure they understood how much they needed me. Of course I listen, but to start with this precise question was not what I had done. I was enthralled by the power of those simple words.
The Silence – Shut up, Pay Attention, Listen, Hear
After the doctor asked this first question, she got quiet. She was directly facing my father and looking him straight in the eye. She had a focused and engaged gaze of openness and calm. She demonstrated no other motive but to hear and understand what Dad was saying.
In Social, we all know we need to listen. We set up Google Alerts, we monitor our @ replies on Twitter, and we make graphs of our link click through rates. But, listening and hearing are not the same thing. It’s more important to really hear what’s being said – in client sales calls, in problem resolution conversations, and in our social media stream.
The Follow Up Question – What Do You Need?
After patiently and fully hearing the answer to her first question, the doctor next asked my father what he needed. Then, again, she got quiet and listened – for a long time by most people’s standards.
You see, as a marketer, I notice the way people persuade, inform, and provide information – the way they communicate. I adore the nuance of words and the skillful application of them. It was easy for my on fire marketing brain (and my “daughter eyes” as I watched my father respond) to see that what this oncology doctor was doing was nothing short of magical.
And, the even more amazing thing? Every doctor we encountered used the same process.
We talk a lot here at Social Media Zone about the mindset of Social. We talk about listening, connecting, and building community. After this week’s experience, I wanted to highlight some take-aways you can use to embody the Social ethos in your business:
#1 – Ask First (and Listen For a Long Time)
The art of listening that leads to hearing and understanding begins with a question. I’m not talking about a question with an agenda either. I see that happening often in social streams. The type of question I’m talking about isn’t a tricky trick attempt to engage and trap the customer into your cleverly woven web of sales interaction. No. The purpose of the best questions is to hear the answer. That requires space, calm, attention, and care, not rushing them along to the next step. Take the time to ask and listen.
RESOURCE TO HELP: Top 20 Social Media Monitoring Vendors For Business (for those of you ready to go to the big gun approach) and How to Build a Free Social Media Monitoring Dashboard (for those dipping your toe in the water)
Organize a regular brainstorm session with your team, both up and down the management chain, to review the market chatter you’re collecting. Formulate personas to better understand the personalities and potential life and product stage the comments are coming from for your customers. Begin to theorize why people are saying what they do and what you can do to make it better.
RESOURCE TO HELP: Understanding Online Groups Through Social Media by Wiley (no opt-in white paper)
Develop solid processes that support a responsive, hearing culture. Once you have a better understanding about why the social media chatter is happening, set up accountability structures tied to performance reviews that require resolution. Close the loop of hearing with processes that continue to further your brand and your Social based culture, both internally and externally. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
RESOURCE TO HELP: L-I-S-T-E-N – The Social Media Process Simplified (series of 6 information packed articles on how to implement tools and processes effectively)
I Tried This Technique and Closed Faster
I already tried out this approach with a new prospect this week and I closed them faster (with fewer words and graphs) than I have ever closed a client before. Hmmm…taking the time to hear works…not too shabby.
When an oncologist can teach you something about Social, clearly the Social mindset is being assimilated into every corner of our world. I would suggest that it’s time to move beyond just setting up your social media properties to check the box that you’re on Social. This hearing technique is one way to do that – do you hear what I mean?
[graphic courtesy of by ky_olsen]
Published: May 28, 2011 By: