Enthusiasm is a great attribute. In many countries, speaking up and speaking often is thought to be a key requirement for leadership and sales. But if you are an entrepreneur starting up, you will need to talk less about your ideas and learn to listen extremely well. This post discusses the importance of listening for entrepreneurs.
The ability to actively listen to customers, distributors, and people knowledgeable about your product are worth its weight in gold.
Three important lessons are worth understanding.
- When you listen to people, your brain is very good at recognizing what you want to hear and ignore things you don’t want to hear. The best way to avoid this unconscious bias is to take notes. Take notes about the good, the bad, and also about things that are not being said but hinted at.
- Bad interviewers and listeners will acknowledge what the respondent is saying too early. This is something you should avoid. It’s better to fail to acknowledge what the interviewee is saying rather than fill in the blanks with your assumptions.
- Interviewing is a lot like a psychiatrist listening to their patients. More often than not, you should say nothing and continue to listen.
- Always ask questions about the past and present but not about the future as people often can only speculate. You can ask questions about problems customers are facing or have faced and whether they have tried to solve the problem/s. Ask the questions and then keep quiet & listen.
How to talk to experts in your field?
It’s often a good idea to test out your ideas on people who have experience as users, buyers, or developers of similar products. When you do, there are 3 traps that you can run into.
The first trap is that the hotter your idea, the more novel your technology, the easier it will be to get into talk with customers, clients, and consulting firms. But in most cases, their agenda will be discovery rather than purchase. So they will show a lot of enthusiasm but will feed the ideas to a major player and buy from them to minimize risk.
The second trap is talking to people who have done it and seen it all. A lot of these people are jaded with past beliefs and experiences. They have difficulty in considering the that world may have changed because buyers are different, consumption patters have changed, technology adoption and costs are different. These people are still a useful resource as their lessons are very valuable. The challenge is to separate the right feedback from the wrong ones. A key way of getting value from the conversation is to ask what has changed in the market today compared to the market before and ask what they would do differently.
The third trap is that early tests of a product may not reveal the success, attitudes of propensity to refer of a longer term user. Such a user will have gained competence and benefits from use; they may have had experiences such as the acquisition of the product being validated by other users and high credibility reviewers.
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