Conducting a Listening Tour to Align With Stakeholders
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Enablement can often be thought of as the connective tissue between teams within a revenue-facing organization like sales and marketing. To be a highly skilled enablement leader often comes with balancing the needs and interests of teams enablement partners closely to ultimately drive revenue and secure deeper partnerships with customers for the future.
A listening tour is a scheduled meeting or block of time that can be used by any one teammate or even a new manager to help gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts, needs, and interests of their colleagues and various stakeholders. The tour is geared toward learning interpretations, insights, and perceptions from a variety of sources in an attempt to actualize the goals of the business on a deeper level and seek out areas for improvement. Listening tours also present a great opportunity for a leader to visualize the future possibilities for their team and the business by opening up everyone’s own thoughts to greater possibilities.
Here are three key tips to help conduct a successful and effective listening tour and a template to help set the wheels in motion for a future where enablement can optimize and operate at its fullest potential with the backing and support of key stakeholders.
Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset
Once a schedule for the tour has been set, it’s helpful to begin with an open mind. To get the best, most authentic responses to questions and concerns, people will want to feel comfortable and confident in sharing their perceptions, opinions, and insights. As the listener, adopting a beginner’s mindset can be useful in focusing on the purpose of the listening tour — to learn and to understand.
It can be useful to state your intentions for the listening tour first to the broader enablement team. This allows for the opportunity for colleagues to jump on board and contribute ideas or questions ahead of time before meeting with other stakeholders. Stating the purpose and intent of the tour will also ensure that the process is transparent and inclusive from the beginning.
Next, identify the people to be included in the listening tour and clarify why their participation and insights are valuable to the tour. As an enablement leader, this is especially important if the role of the enablement team spans several different departments, including product marketing, sales, customer success, or even human resources. Scheduling one-on-one sessions with the partners within those teams that interact with the enablement function closely is critical in ensuring that goals are aligned for the future.
“I think about [a beginner’s mind] as having the discipline to forget everything we think we know and have heard so that we can hear what’s being said to us for the first time,” said Karen Mangia, vice president of customer and market insights at Salesforce.
Setting the intention and coming into a listening tour with an open mind and beginner’s mindset can help open the door to more discovery, greater curiosity, and more productive conversations with cross-functional teams.
Prepare Thought-Provoking and Open-Ended Questions
To kickstart the preparation ahead of the meetings, it’s now time to consider the types of questions that will spur thoughtful and meaningful conversations and shed light on some key issues that are looking to be resolved.
“I conducted a listening tour of sales,” said Trevor Yeats, director of B2B marketing at Yahoo for Business. “I wanted to learn more about a go-to-market process, and I asked open-ended questions. What’s going well, and what could be better? And by far, the number one opportunity for our organization was to improve the search and discovery of our sales collateral.”
Open-ended questions allow more space to drive meaningful connections and opportunities for the conversation to flow naturally, all while prompting thoughtful responses that can shed light on some key insights for the broader team.
“I used to think being a great salesperson, or sales leader was all about having the right answers, and what I’ve come to discover is that great salespeople and sales leaders ask great questions,” said Mangia.
Examples of questions that can lead to better insight include:
- What was the most impactful project you worked on last year?
- What is your biggest priority?
- How does enablement help your team? How does it provide value?
- What are some things the enablement team should definitely continue?
- How do you like to receive feedback?
- Who else should enablement talk to for more alignment and resources?
The end goal of these meetings is to both extract some valuable responses for each partner or stakeholder enablement interacts with, as well as generate some new ideas on how to better support the team and the organization’s overarching goals. The early focus on receiving people’s ideas and keenly listening will be invaluable to the enablement team as they plan for more projects and initiatives requiring critical buy-in.
Document Everything and Share Observations
Recording key conversations and writing down key insights can help keep thoughts and ideas together and allow the opportunity to spark new ones. It may be worth considering keeping all the insights anonymous. However, it can be useful to share with the team the title or role each person plays and their impact in partnering with the broader enablement team.
After the listening tour concludes, compile the insights, throughlines, or key themes present throughout the discussions to share with the rest of the team. At this stage, it still may be early to detail exact action plans, but it can help sharpen the enablement’s team vision moving forward and help prioritize the challenges and opportunities that are evident from speaking with various stakeholders.
At the end of the listening tour and after sharing observations, a new path forward may start to take shape to improve working relationships between enablement and other teams. An effective listening tour reveals how collaboration can be beneficial for all parties and also illuminate the opportunities to drive better business partnerships that will have long-lasting effects on an organization’s long-term vision. By listening carefully and taking into account the needs and interests of the stakeholders that enablement teams work the most closely with, a stronger and more clear direction can be found.
To create your own listening tour, download our template with questions and observation prompts to get started.