Why listening and communication skills are key for a successful implementation?

Why listening and communication skills are key for every successful Salesforce/ Pardot / Marketing Cloud / Marketo / Hobspot ... (you name it) implementation? And sometimes even more important that technical skills.

In today’s high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world, communication is more important then ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really crafting our verbal communication skills.

In my opinion, 

  1. Listening carefully to your customer is the most critical thing for every successful solution you will ever come up with. We, as a consultants, need to dig deep and get to the root cause of customers pain.
    - Why this is not working?
    - Why this frustrates him/her?
    - Why this is not good enough?
    - What exactly they are looking to change or improve?
    We really need to ask as many questions as necessary to literary feel his/hers pain and frustration to be able to suggest and develop the best solution possible. It’s how almost every successful entrepreneur says, that the reason for them developing this product or service was actually “scratching their own itch”.

  2. Understanding the issue and frustration is the next step. So now when we feel the customers pain, we need to understand what is the root cause and how we can eliminate this cause. Now we need to ask questions like:
    Has this always been this way?
    When did this start?
    Was this solution working when you had less employees?
    Do you think there are spikes when this issue causes more trouble, for example, specific time of the year?
    Do you have any work around?

  3. Next step is solution seeking. Now when we feel the frustration and understand the root cause, we are on our way to find a solution. Further questions could help guiding the conversation with the customer:
    - How would you envision this working in the best case scenario?
    - What are things you definitely want to get rid off?
    - Is there something you still like about this solution?
    - What is your long term vision on how this should work?
    - How we can make sure our new solution will still apply in 1, 2, 5 years?

  4. Lastly, bingo. You understand what is that customer needs and how he wants this to work. Now we need to design the solution on how this will technically is going to work. Important note, when you have done your potential solution seeking/discussion session with the customer never promise that this will be 100% possible on the spot during the meeting if you are not sure. There is nothing wrong in saying that you are happy to take all the requirements away and work on the solution design.  And you will be happy to present the the solution when you next meet. You want to make sure there are no grey areas and chances for any mistake. Last thing that you want to do, is to let down the client before you have even started the implementation phase.

  5. Now after the meeting with the customer, do your research and understand what skill set, features you will need to develop this solution.
    - Can you do all on your own?
    - Or do you need developers help?
    - Do you need to speak to a Salesforce Architect and seek an advice for the best long term solution?
    Don’t be scared to ask for a help. Don’t jump above your expertise and make wrong assumptions. With every project you establish your reputation.

    Imagine that you live in a village and there are 2 cafes. You own Cafe A. And your neighbour owns Cafe B. All local neighbourhood will go to either Cafe A or Cafe B based on which they like better. If you want for all locals to come to your cafe, you will need to make sure they enjoy their first experience visiting your Cafe, so they always want to come back to you based on how you served them during their first visit. Same applies to professional services. Every customer can be a retainer business if you make them happy during the first project.

Now. Let’s rewind a bit. Where do we really got onto the technical bit? Only in the point Nr 4, when you actually go away and with a help of additional technical resources can craft the solution.

Understanding business requirement, vision and goals is key. When you are together with a customer you want to make sure you are asking as much questions as possible and considering any potential risks and issues, so that customer based on their product/service can actually take you through all the possible scenarios of how your solution might work for them.

But what do you do if you think you don't have a good listening skill?

When I was starting as a Salesforce consultant, I always had a pre-made question set on my laptop with me in every meeting as a reminder of what I should ask. Additionally, based on how our conversation was going, I was asking business/use case specific questions.

Create a logical path of questions what will easy up the pressure of don’t asking enough or too much. When you hear reply’s, as soon as you have a question mark in your head - ask loudly - Why so? Can we please go into more detail? You are not expected to know their business better then they. And the deeper you will dig, the more confidence client will have that you actually understand their business well.

Before you go to meet the customer, research the people who you will be meeting on LinkedIn. Check their past positions, current position and what exactly they do in the business. What is their main expertise area. This will also help you to know how you should talk to the people you are about to meet, how technical or user centric you should be when structuring your questions.

Research company website, use cases, products, pricing, locations, number of employees. This will help you with understanding the scale of the solution and will help you to avoid any silly questions. Client will feel that you are well prepared and understand what is their business trying to do in general.

I have prepared a question cheat sheet. Just leave where you want to receive the questions.

Kristina Alexandra