The Art of Listening

The most important part of my job is listening, not selling.  Several months back, I was sitting in the CIO’s office of a publicly traded company.  After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked very few questions. Instead, I sat there quietly and listened to the CIO. I listened to his problems and his vision. When you listen, you learn.

The Problem

As I sat there, he described his challenges. His organization has fully embraced Office 365, but since they have numerous enterprise applications that would never move to Office 365, he was struggling with how to harness his organization’s IP. Their IP, like most organizations, is the life blood of their company. Their information is customer-centric, and they did not have a 360-degree view of their most important assets. Employees currently look for content in three siloed applications.

Opportunity information lives in Salesforce. Contracts and sales orders reside in SAP. Marketing content is in SharePoint Online. How could he bring this all together and have it make sense?  To make matters worse, as each day passed, the silos grew exponentially.

The Vision

At this point, I only asked one more question before I sat there and listened some more.  “Describe for me the perfect utopian solution to this problem?”

He then went on to paint the vision of, what he described as, an “intelligent search” experience, a place where employees could go to find critical information to do their jobs no matter which applications they used. He wanted the executive team to be able to have a customer 360 view from their SharePoint-based intranet, basically a search-based application or dashboard.  He had a vision of landing in London for a meeting. After landing and hopping into an Uber, he pulls up his calendar on his phone and “automagically” he is presented with relevant documents for his meeting, as well as contextual information based on his current location.

The Solution

After listening carefully for 30 minutes, I then respectfully asked if I could offer a few suggestions. Since I had listened and understood his problems, I thought I could provide my expertise to offer ideas that would get him closer to having a solution that made his vision a reality. Our conversation was frank, open and collaborative.

Based on his problem, I recommended BA Insight’s SmartHub, Search for Salesforce app, and our Salesforce and SAP connectors.

With SmartHub, they would have a responsive, internet-like UI with personalized delivery. The CIO could now easily update his profile while traveling. If he is in a London hotel, then he would be presented with information based on his current location. If he has a meeting in the morning, then relevant documents would appear in his personalized search center.

With the Salesforce app, which is an embedded SharePoint Search Center within Salesforce, the sales team would be able to search for enterprise content from the application they work with the most.  At the end of the day, who cares where the information lives? Critical content should be brought to you in context (see my blog It Should Be All About Me!).

With the BAI Connector Framework he would be able to easily integrate Salesforce and SAP content, including ACLs (“Access Control List”), into the SharePoint Online index. This would be accomplished by leveraging Microsoft’s hybrid architecture and Azure. Employees would now have a security trimmed (meaning end-users only see content they have the rights to access), unified view of information. No longer would they have to log into three systems to get their jobs done.

The added benefit to integrating content into one search index is that the executive team would now have the power to easily build a customer 360-degree view search-based application. Since the queries are predefined and the information is in a unified index, his team would just need to drop in some charting web parts to bring the application to life.

Life Lessons

I love exploring new restaurants. Recently, I was eating at Brandy Ho’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I found it apropos that my fortune cookie contained the following message:

Fortune Cookie

Maybe it’s my Midwest roots. But, if you take the time to stop and listen, if you are genuine, then you will be trusted and people will open up to you. Because I care about the people I am working with, and I listen closely, I can partner with my prospects and customers to learn about their unique situations. It helps me understand how to best work with each one of them, how to address their specific challenges, and how to help them accomplish their goals.

Stop. Listen. Learn. It’s that simple.