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A few years ago my younger brother had the opportunity to meet Bono, the lead singer for the Irish rock band U2. This meeting was not the typical "stand in line, get an autograph, shake hands" kind of thing. The setting in which they met gave my brother the opportunity to spend 10-15 minutes in uninterrupted discussion with the rock star.

I was a tad jealous as I listened to my brother recount to me the details of their meeting. Interestingly though, the thing that made the biggest impression on my brother was that Bono was the one who asked all the questions. To quote my brother, "He didn't break eye contact and his demeanor showed that he was genuinely interested in learning about me."

It often comes as a surprise when we hear stories of world-famous celebrities showing so much interest in "the common man." Why? Because we often get the impression that they have more important things to do.

This thought made me wonder how that same dynamic applies to companies and those that buy their products and services. Are buyers surprised when a company shows genuine interest in their wants and needs? Which are you, as a seller, more concerned with: being interesting or being truly interested in your buyers' needs? While the difference in the two may be subtle, the way they come across to your buyers will make an incredible difference in how they engage with (and ultimately buy from) you.

Continuing with the theme, here are four characteristics of companies that are more focused on being interested than interesting.

1. They Engage With Their Buyers

Organizations that are interested in their buyers focus on engagement. What does this mean? It's not just the new wave of brand marketing. It's a communication process whereby they connect with their buyers, seek to understand them, and ask questions. The questions lead to answers that provide understanding; understanding leads to a better overall buyer experience; a better experience leads to a long-term relationship. This rarely begins with: "Hello, when can you view a demo? Engagement takes time and will be accomplished by patient, ongoing dialogue.

2. They Know Who Their Buyer Is Before They Engage

Ask anyone what they are looking for in a romantic relationship, and the answer often is a list of character traits or a description of the ideal mate. Companies that are interested do the same with their buyers. They create buyer personas or ideal profiles, which allow them to better focus and target their messaging and offers.

The development of these profiles is a continual process. The more information you obtain through engagement, the more the profile of your buyer will evolve. The more you know about them (being interested), the better you'll be able to help them achieve their goals.

3. They Don't Treat Everyone the Same

One of the things I like to do when I get a consumer telemarketing call at home is to see how quickly I can get the caller off script. It's so painful to hear them reading word for word from this script, especially knowing that I'm hearing the same spiel they're giving everyone else they call. You know you have them thrown when you ask a question. There's usually five seconds of silence and then they begin reading again, perhaps hoping I'll forget I asked a question. It's great fun.

Ineffective B2B marketing and sales organizations are acting in much the same manner. Instead of a one-on-one dialogue with each buyer, they take a scripted approach that indicates they have no understanding of the buyer. Conversely, organizations that are interested tailor communication and overall experience to each unique buyer (or buyer category).

4. They Measure Their Engagement

I recently served on a panel which was asked, "How do you know if your content is effective?" Other members of the panel began answering, giving elaborate answers about key indicators, and percentages of opens and clicks (obviously email focused). When my turn came, I offered up one short line: "You will know it's effective if your buyers respond to it." It's pretty simple, but it's true. If there is no response or action, your content is not working.

The only way to know this is to measure your buyer engagement, response, and (ultimately) purchase behavior. If they don't keep coming back for more, then there's a problem.

Interesting or interested? One gets attention, the other develops and maintains long-term buying relationships. Which one do you want to be?

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image of Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo is a life design coach, marketing and sales consultant, author of The UnAmerican Dream, and a TEDx keynote speaker. He has held corporate roles, started entrepreneurial ventures, served in nonprofits, and sat on many corporate boards. Hidalgo and his wife host The Life Design Podcast.

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