How Exactly to Listen to the Market with Ilise Benun

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If you're not sure what I mean when I say, "listen to the market," this episode is for you. 

Here’s a rare solo episode in which Ilise Benun answers a question that comes up over and over, “how exactly do you listen to the market” and then shares 6 different things to listen for when you’re listening to the market.

So listen here (or below) and learn….


If you want more on this idea, here are more posts about "listening to the market"

  1. 3 Simple ways to listen to the market
  2. How to listen for your niche

And if you like what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe here and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

Read the transcript for episode #484: How to actually listen to the market.

You can talk and you can hear, but do you listen?

I mean really listen?

Perhaps you’ve heard my talking about “listening to the market” — but people often ask what exactly does that mean?  

Today I’m answering that question.

First, to truly listen, we’ve got to ready our receptors — that means gearing our ears in two different ways: 

  • I want you to listen outwardly: to hear what they say (as well as what’s underneath what they may not be saying)
  • I also want you to listen inwardly: to hear your response to whatever is (and isn’t) being said

People will tell you a lot — but only if you’re listening. 

They will reveal themselves. They will share more than you imagine. But only if you let them. Only if you listen. 

And this takes practice.

Once your listening ears are tuned in, there are 6 things I want you to listen for: 

1. First, listen for stories (and story-starters). People love to tell stories. In fact, humans have been telling stories since cave dwellers painted walls with them. In an interaction, there is usually a story at the ready. For example, I recently asked my massage therapist, “Why do you do this work?” She said, “Because my guardian suggested massage therapy.” I could have said, “That’s great!” but instead, because I heard the story under the surface, I said, “What’s a guardian?” and I certainly learned a lot from there. So get curious. When your conversational-counterpart opens a window, jump through. 

  • Listen for openings, which can often come in the form of a story waiting to be told. 
  • Listen for clues, and words that allude to a story underneath.
  • Take the bait. In my experience, it’s always worth it.

2. Next, listen for preferences. I was recently in Nashville at HOW Design Live, a big design conference. I heard people saying things like: “I love Nashville”; “I really hate air conditioning”; “I love frosted donuts — but not the ones with the cream inside.” People will openly and passionately share their preferences, and that is a great opening to ask, “Why?” 

3. Listen for their plans. Focus on the future; a lot of information lives there. I like to ask, “What is your plan?” No matter what service you offer, this will open up all sorts of answers that you can dig in and ask “Why?” about. Another pointed question: “Do you need help implementing your plan?” You just might be talking to a prospect and not even know it until you ask about their plans

4. Listen for their pain. If someone is venting or ranting — pull up your chair. You certainly want a front row seat. This is hero-making-terrain. When someone divulges their pain points and needs, you can quickly learn where someone (maybe you?) can come in and solve their problems. Ask questions like: “What’s your biggest problem right now?” Or, “Have you ever worked with a copywriter / designer / coach like me? What bugged you about it?” Sometimes the pain isn’t obvious, to listen too for inklings of pain, as it may be hidden. 

5. Listen for what you can learn – those are the things that others know, but you don’t. I think too many people are too afraid of sounding stupid or uninformed, and they miss a huge opportunity. Even after more than 60 years on this planet … even after learning a lot … I realize more and more how little I know in the grand scheme of things. (And I think that ignorance is one of my best assets!) What could you understand better? What word or idea or concept? Ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” and “What does that mean? Or What do you mean by that?” In fact, I often start a conversation with, “Pretend I know nothing and tell me everything about what you do.” That takes a lot of pressure off me and them. 

6. Listen for what isn’t being said. / The subtext. Many of my clients are creatives — so they have the natural gift of intuition. Maybe you too? If you hear a prospect tiptoeing around an issue, or saying a tiny-something when you feel there’s more, ask about it. You can say, “I hear you saying this … Is there more to it?” It’s okay to make a gentle assumption — or share a personally-related tidbit — that will help provide a comfort level for your partner to go deeper. Sometimes there needs to be an “instigator” to take a conversation from polite to real. Let that be you.

Those are my 6 ideas, but in a recent Office Hours session, I asked my community what they listen for. Here are some of the responses I received: 

  • Things related to their family or personal life.
  • Strong emotions of any type. Fear. Excitement. 
  • Upcoming initiatives — a goal, training or conference.
  • Blocks: “I don’t have any time to do this”; “This is so hard.”
  • Their WHY; what they’re trying to accomplish in life on a deeper level.
  • Things we have in common. 
  • Pets! :) 
  • Body language.
  • The things that are so obvious that you might not be hearing them.
  • Successes, especially when certain subsets of your market are doing better than others. 
  • Content ideas.
  • What they really need.
  • Repeated words or emotional / metaphorical words.
  • So, where do we go from here?

    To continue on your journey towards ever more effective and deeper listening, here are a few simple tips:

    • Take notes! This will set the foundation for your follow up. This is how you’re going to continue the conversation. What you want to know more about. How you can help. It just may spark a deeper understanding that turns into something more, down the road. Be patient.
    • Don’t be afraid to not know. Drop not wanting to look stupid. It’s not serving you! Don’t be too proud to ask, “What’s a guardian” or “Why do you love frosted donuts?” or “What does that mean?” Approach conversations with a child’s curiosity. Ask why. Look at each exchange as a unique learning opportunity and a beautiful space to connect — because it is.
    • Keep practicing — and be confident! Deep listening isn’t a skill that comes easily. It’s built over time. Most people stop listening very early in an exchange when they start to formulate their own response. Don’t be like most people. Don’t prepare your response! Listen inwardly and simply trust yourself, trust that the right response will be waiting for you when you need it. And if it doesn't, you can always say, “Hmm, you’ve given me something to think about. Thank you.” 

    I hope that was helpful and that it’s a bit clearer what I mean when I say, “listen to the market.” 

    As a baby step, I would suggest simply observing yourself as you listen – or try to listen – and notice when you stop listening, both to an other and to yourself. What can you learn about yourself in and from those moments? And what do you have to do differently in order to listen better – it might have something to do with focusing outward for longer and longer. 

    Try it…and let me know how it goes. 

    And if  you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, the first step is to sign up for my Quick Tips at Once you’re on the site, you’ll find lots more resources, including my Simplest Marketing Program. Enjoy and I’ll see you next time. 

    Photo credit: Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash  

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