Communicating with a potential customer is like communicating with a significant other – if you don’t listen, you’re in trouble.Understanding your target audience is the difference between wasting time, and smart business. Think about those people that wave you down in the middle of shopping centres, trying to sell you something. They’ll excitedly exclaim – ‘I’ve got something that you’ll love, just jump over here and I’ll show you!’ Well, how could they possibly know what someone likes or needs when randomly selecting people from a crowd? It’s pushy, annoying and a lot of the time, unsuccessful.“I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.” – Diane SawyerFiguring out who your potential customers are and what they really want is invaluable. Once you have it nailed, it’s a skill that will help to build your business and brand like no other. Instead of being a middle of the mall hand-cream salesperson, you will begin to reach your target audiences through clever online and offline marketing. How do you figure out who to listen to?Whether you’re a startup or an established company trying to build a wider client base, it’s important to identify the businesses or individuals who want your product – aka your target audience.Although there are some exceptions, in most circumstances, there has to be a granular approach to target audiences. The reality is – your target audience isn’t always who you think it is, making a one-size-fits-all marketing and sales technique is just not focused enough.“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs.So who are all your different types of buyers? The best way to look at it is to determine who actually makes or encourages the buying decision. From there you can begin to see what they need, what their problems are, what they’re trying to achieve and their budgets.Look at a story like that of P&G when they tried selling their Swiffer Mop in Italy. The mop’s marketing was targeted at women who wanted a product that was light and convenient. But, after the product hit the shelves, they discovered that their Italian target audiences were more likely to purchase a cleaning product if it was made out to seem strong and durable. This prompted P&G to rework its message, making the mop a huge success in Italy. How do you become a better listener?Once you’ve figured out who you need to be listening to, you need to work on how you listen – particularly during the sales process.For some, the art of listening is a tricky one to master – with the temptation to dominate impossible to ignore. After all, you’re the ones with the expertise, information and means. But, without the ability to listen, you’ll never figure out the true needs of your audience.Slow it down – be clear and take your time when explaining anything – pause to give your customer a moment to respond and prompt conversation through questions.Never interrupt – interrupting is rude in everyday conversation, so don’t allow it to creep into conversations with potential customers.Reiterate and clarify – this will help to ensure your client hasn’t misinterpreted information, particularly important when communicating over the phone.Listen to emotions – figuring out how your audience really feels about things will help you refine your marketing and sales messaging. Again this is important when communicating over the phone and physical body language cannot be read.Ask questions – particularly important when gathering information at the start of a relationship. Push sales, but don’t be pushy.No one wants to be hounded by a salesperson who can’t take a hint. There’s a fine line between following up a lead, and pushing someone into a corner. Read your customers – are they uncomfortable? Do they need more time and information? Or are they just not interested?Remove the pressure – it’s easy to get frustrated and push someone too hard, but it’s important to remember that this can sometimes come across as aggressive. Change your tact, and work your sales process till the end – don’t rush.Take your time – don’t be desperate, pushing someone straight into a sale is like asking someone to marry you on the first date! Develop a process and systematically work through it at a speed they’re comfortable with.Let your client talk – it’s what we’ve been talking about this whole time, remember to listen! It’s your job to determine whether what you have to offer is actually what they need, and whether they’re a good fit for your business. If you spend the whole time pitching, you’ll have no idea who they are or what they need.Focus on their problems, not your sale – at the end of the day, your customer doesn’t care about you, your product, or service – they care about themselves. Work to actually help your potential client – don’t just focus on selling your product or service. You want to make your clients life easier – stress that.This point was summarized in 2015 when Facebook took action against posts that devalued overly promotional posts. The consumers didn’t want it, and it was ruining their user experience. After Facebook changed its algorithm, CEO of Facebook Marketing Partner AdEspresso, Massimo Chieruzzi said, ‘if the News Feed becomes flooded by affiliate marketers and promotional posts, users will have a terrible user experience and leave Facebook in the long run. Remember what happened with MySpace? Free spam for the masses.’Spam doesn’t work in marketing and brunt force doesn’t work in sales. Customers have let us know this, so let’s implement it. When you listen, what do you find out about consumers today?One thing that will come through loud and clear is that the way buyers purchase has changed drastically in the last 10 years. In a world of 24/7 digital access – consumers will often conduct their own research before deciding to pick up the phone.Has there been a shift? Do you need to be focusing on marketing over sales?According to a recent study, consumers make 70% of their buying decisions before contacting a company. With a stat like this, and the digital age changing the way business is done, it would appear that customers want to be persuaded by marketing over being pushed into sales. You need compelling and valuable content available that can be consumed by customers, leading them to contact you.It’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s all about inbound marketing and customer engagement. A survey by Crain Communications showed that ‘60% of US B2B marketers said inbound marketing was more effective than outbound tactics, while 63% reported that the growing use of digital channels was firing their interest in an inbound approach. The research also showed that ‘34% of the marketers surveyed said the ineffectiveness of outbound techniques was directly driving a shift to real-time inbound marketing.’It seems pretty clear – customers want inbound marketing, not irritating cold calls. But the lessons you learn by listening more during sales, are just as important in inbound marketing too. Remember who you’re talking to, remember how to listen, put your audience’s needs first, and let the right customers come to you in their own time.When you stop pushing and start listening, you can start to build a healthier relationship!Are you a good listener? Are you looking to shift to a more inbound marketing approach? Send us a message with your current strategy and we’ll let you know if you’re on the right path.