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Learn to Listen... or Listen to Learn!

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  1. The key to listening and why it’s important in B2B marketing.

Learn to Listen... or

Listen to Learn!

Which is it?

For me, it is best summed up in the numerous articles that have appeared in so many leading business magazines around the world about the ongoing success of one company, in an industry where many of the world’s top brands are fighting for survival. I refer, of course, to the automotive industry and that stellar brand, TOYOTA. How have they done it?

My take on it, is that after all has been said and done, Toyota do one thing brilliantly well. In fact they probably do it better than any other company on the planet today. That is LISTENING.

Listening to their employees, with over 50,000 suggestions being put forward annually.

Listening to their dealer network and empowering them to make the right decision in the interests of their clients.

Listening to their clients and market forces and then reacting appropriately.

Through listening, Toyota learn a lot. It is this learning that has made them the number one car manufacturer in the world. Toyota was the first to market with a hybrid car. Their brands consistently rate in the top 3 of the JD Power survey on defects per 1000 cars.

In the end, what are relationships all about?

Giving equal time to listen to one another’s’ needs, pains and challenges.

Unfortunately in the B2B environment in South and Southern Africa, business is poor at listening. Client centricity is really no more than a point of discussion, whilst very little is being done to actually do something positive about it.

Ipsos Markinor’s State of Marketing clearly indicates that only one in twenty companies invest in listening at all. That’s a shocking 5%.

My own experience, in having completed 100 B2B learningRelationship programmes in the last 6 years, in South and Southern Africa, indicates very

clearly that companies do not make the time to listen to their clients. By not listening, they are unable to learn. By not learning they aren’t able to address their clients’ major business issues and challenges.

The Client as a Market Space

By note listening, companies are not able to develop that most aspired to status of being a “Trusted Advisor” to a select portfolio of their clients. This results in lost opportunity and hence lost revenues and profits.

The concept of “The Client as a Market Space” is based on the understanding that a client has a set of defined needs and requirements that if not understood correctly, prevent suppliers from maximising the market space within the client. Why is that?

Because in the constant hussle and bustle of business today we rarely if ever ask, hence aren’t able to listen, let alone understand what a client’s business challenges may be.

Opportunities Abound

So how does one overcome this gap in B2B marketing? Learn to Listen and create the environment to do so. Have greenfields or open table discussions with clients to understand what their business challenges really are. Understand their strategy; their pains in achieving it and what your solution or service could do to assist them in enabling their strategy more effectively and efficiently.

In closing, a large life insurance company’s research house called me to ask me about their service levels. I was asked to answer a few questions, which I did. My answers, seeing I’d just cancelled a programme with this company, were mostly negative; however I did want to recognise a particular individual. However, this was not possible, as there was no space on the form!

Is that listening or just plain stupidity! You decide.

Andrew Clare is Managing Partner of reLiance a business to business relationship marketing practice. We focus on improving client profitability through developing, implementing and measuring sustainable, collaborative business to business relationships.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , www.rassa.co.za


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