Social Listening is Like Sonar for Salespeople


social listening

I love WWII submarine movies. I especially love the thrill of the hunt and the ping of the sonar. The closer you get to the target, the louder and more rapid the pingbacks become. When your pings and their pings meld as one, you are right on top of them. Directional sonar will even identify where to look for them.

The two critical listening skills

Everybody loves to talk about the great skills that are necessary in sales. I’m only going to share what I think are the two most important ones that are related to listening …

Clarify – Did you really hear (or understand) the question, the objection, or the discussion? It’s always good practice to clarify … “I’m not sure if I totally understood your (question, comment, objection). Could you please clarify that for me?” or “Was your question …. ?”

Confirm – Confirming that your answer made sense to the recipient, and that you have even addressed the right question with the appropriate and complete answer, is always recommended! “Did I answer your question completely or did I miss anything?”

If you can do these two things right, you will automatically separate yourself from at least the lion’s share of your competitors and your customers will love you for it!

Two eyes, two ears, one mouth

You are the way you are with good reason and we can apply these characteristics to the “rules of social media engagement.” The first rule of any conversation is to listen, then to determine if you have anything of value to contribute and, finally, only at the appropriate place and time … you jump in (engage). If you are not adept at these three steps or, if you have nothing pertinent to add to the conversation to begin with, you move on.

Always remember that listening is both proactive and reactive. This means that you must actively focus on the task at hand (turn off your stinkin’ smartphone) which happens to be … listening. We proactively search for opportunities to listen to, and perhaps to respond, while at the same time our ears of keenly aware of our need to react to messages that may be directed toward us.

Social listening but, for what?

Like sonar, you are listening for people who are pinging you and you are also listening for pingbacks, responses to, your active messaging. Additionally, you are sending out pings in order to discover, and  to listen for, potential targets of opportunity. Listen for

  • Conversations – The really great thing about conversations is that you never know what they will be about. While that might be fun, you want to be able to discover conversations that lead to business.
  • Your mentions – When people mention you on the social networks, they are a making a touch and that touch is being aimed at you. Trolls aside, I would think that you might want to reply in kind. It is very very difficult to, on the immediate surface, make any kind of a decision whether or not there might be a mutually beneficial relationship based on one-touch alone but, it all starts with that first exchange.
  • Brand mentions (good and bad) – You need to reply to both and … both are opportunities. Your best customers are often created by your ability to solve problems in a satisfactory and timely manner. On social media, your efforts in this regard will be highly visible to others and you might wish to chew on that a bit before you start typing.
  • What your customers want and what they want to hear – While they very well might come right out and tell you (or tell others), you will also want to monitor how your messaging is resonating with your audience. Great indications would be retweets, likes, comments, +1′s, favorites, and shares. Not so good indicators would be people disconnecting from you in droves.
  • New opportunities – Make no mistake, people on the networks are actively and willingly talking about their needs. Moreover, they are asking their personal networks for recommendations.
  • Potential new connections and relationships –  These would include those in your target market, referrers, influencers, and who your connections are talking (and connecting) to. Listen for clues that will help you to initiate, and to develop, better relationships.
  • What your competitors are talking about and who they are talking to – Even if your competitors are smart enough to not connect to you, while they can run, they still probably can’t hide from the savvy social salesperson. They are talking to their customers and their prospective customers and you get to be the fly on the wallpaper with both.

Social listening strategies

Let’s dial up the sonar, put on those earphones, and focus! If there is one huge problem with social media, it’s that there is so damn much of it. Now, take that and multiply that by the number of social networks that you choose to be active on. It’s overwhelming and you must employ tools and techniques just to make any of this workable let alone successful. You need to be able to filter through the noise.

  • I would strongly suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin this process by organizing your important contacts, those who you wish to watch closely, into some manner of groups such as customers, prospects, referrers, competitors, and influencers. The main for this is that it is one heck of a lot easier to add folks to these groupings as they come along vs. going back through a massive list after the fact and then try to create these separations later. Examples of groupings include: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ groups, Google+ circles, Twitter and Facebook lists, and LinkedIn contact tags. Twitter can be a particularly difficult challenge as creating lists using their interface is cumbersome. Take a look at Now use these groupings to focus on your target lists.
  • Search – Each network has its own internal search engine and, while all will allow you to search for interesting people that match your criteria. Some, Twitter for example, will also allow you to search for specific updates. There may be 100 or more app choices designed for search that are available for Twitter alone. RazorSocial and Social Media Examiner are consistently great resources for keeping up with the latest tools.
  • Social dashboards – You simply must have a good social dashboard and both HootSuite (free and paid) and SproutSocial (paid only) are two very popular applications and both are worth your consideration.

Target acquired, launch torpedoes

Having acquired your target through active listening, you may now engage and make the necessary taps (informal) and touches (direct and formal). As a salesperson, it is probably not in your best interest to sink your targets. Maybe just bump them a bit in order to get their attention.

Would you care to add to the conversation? Please feel free to comment below. I’ll be listening for you!

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About the Author:

Craig Jamieson

This monthly Social Sales column is contributed by Craig M. Jamieson. Craig has been in B2B sales since 1977 and during that time has served in a variety of positions including; sales manager, division sales manager, national sales manager, district manager, and as a business owner. He is the managing partner of Adaptive Business Services in Boise, Idaho which owns and operates NetWorks! Boise Valley B2B Networking Groups, is a Nimble Social CRM & HootSuite Solution Partner, a TTI Performance Systems VAA, and Craig also conducts workshops and seminars relating to sales and social business applications. +Craig Jamieson

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