There are two market-facing types of smart. What I call “Conference” smart and what I call “Customer” smart.
Anyone that’s been in a business leadership position knows or should know the different types of “smart” that people around them bring to the table. Street smart. Book smart. Engineering smart. Keep your mouth shut smart. I don’t know what I don’t know smart. And so on.
I’ve been to more than a few industry conferences – and I’ve been on hundreds of customer calls. In turn, I get the opportunity to talk to lots and lots of people, asking questions, gauging each of their perspectives, problems, lenses on where they see their business and what opportunities that are important to them.
Conference smart shows up when people go to lots of conferences. Speak on panels, and generally hob-nob with other conference elite. They learn the buzz-words, trendy jargon, what people say is the future and can recite the Industry luminaries (and celebrities) by first name – even better by nickname. The close cousin to Conference smart is Book smart. They just don’t like to travel to or don’t have the budget freedom to hit the conference circuit.
Customer smart is more gritty. Not nearly as glamorous as the Conference smart, and definitely without the cocktail parties and trips to Vegas. Customer smart typically comes with good sales people, but can also come from product leaders, marketeers and other externally-driven people that are interested in who’s buying what, why, and how.
Customer smart trumps Conference smart. Both however are necessary if you want to be successful – and its important to combine the two when it comes to strategy and longer-range planning. As my old boss used to say: “when in doubt, make a sales call”.