Listening is a must for successful communications. It is also cited as one of the most powerful tools of successful leadership. Not surprisingly the Chinese symbol for Listening consists of several components:
- Ear = What you use to hear)
- Undivided = Pay attention as if the other person were king
- Eyes = Be observant as if you had ten eyes
- You = Listen with individual attention
- Heart = Listen also with your heart (in addition to ear and eye)
People who listen are capable of building and maintaining trustworthy relationships.
Marketing experts who listen actively to customers are capable of:
- shaping products and services the best way to meet demand and maximize sales volumes
- choosing the right communication and sales channels to reach the audience
- spreading out the most appropriate market messages
- setting the most attractive and profitable price levels
- beating the competition with minimum efforts
- finding and promoting successfully company’s unique selling proposition on the market.
However you should take into consideration that Listening is not the same as Hearing.
Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires feeling, focus and thoughtful understanding based on knowledge and analysis. Listening means paying attention not only to the sounds, but also to the subtle signs and hidden meaning of undergoing processes and actions. A marketing expert “should learn to listen closely to the customer’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his customers, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of the market”. Listening to your customers and the market from the marketing point of view means not only following the competition, analyzing the usage reports, paying attention to research findings, but also deeper understanding about customer requirements and unmet needs, foreseeing the tendencies that nobody can even think about, making the right liaisons between product, price, place, promotion and people.
In other words, it means being capable of HEARING THE UNHEARD. Here is an ancient Chinese story which explains what does this expression mean and how to achieve such level of marketing enlightenment: The Sound of the Forest
Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.
When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?
For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.
When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”