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Messaging Or Engaging, Where Is The Conversation?

by David Brock on November 2nd, 2012

I may be guilty of wordsmithing and I’d appreciate you correcting me on this, however I’m becoming very uncomfortable with all the posts and emphasis I see on messaging. 

Maybe part of what’s driving this post, is I’m getting sick and tired of being “messaged.”  As Voting Day approaches, the intensity of messaging is increasing, but my  engagement is plummeting.

I wonder of  this is a problem we have with our prospects and customers.  Are we messaging, but not engaging.  Are we messaging, but not generating conversations?

 Don’t get me wrong, messaging is very important, but it is a means not the objective, or the end (at least in B2B sales).

Messaging is important.  It’s where marketing spends a lot of time, as it should.  It’s where critical issues are identified, it’s where our organizations put a stake in the ground about what we stand for, what we do, and how we can help customers.  It drives visibility and awareness.  Done effectively it engages the prospect or customer and starts the conversation.

Messaging can provide important insights, it can be educational, it can provide a point of view, it can raise awareness, it can provoke reaction.  But, inherently it is one way.  It is us talking at the recipient.

Messaging, done poorly is just a form of pitch.  Whether we position it as insight, the features and functions of our products, how fantastic we are, or anything else, it’s can be simply talking at the customer, not engaging them in a conversation.  We usually know poor messaging because it’s delivered at great volume, frequency, and intensity.  People and organizations doing this tend to be forced to do this because they have nothing of substance to generate conversations.

Again, messaging correctly done, engages the recipient and starts the conversation.

I know it’s an important area, we are all trying to get the prospects’ or customers’ (or our colleagues’) attentions, but what happens once we’ve done this?  Are we prepared to have a conversation?  Are we prepared to exchange ideas, points of view?  Do we know how to listen, to probe, to engage?  Are we willing to shift our attitudes or positions as a result of engaging in a conversation or disucssion?

Are we, the messenger and the target of the messaging, moving forward together, collaboratively, creating value for each other in the conversations?  It’s in the conversations where meaning happens.  It’s in the conversations where change happens.  It’s in the conversations where we choose to move forward and take action.

It’s important to be great at messaging, but we can’t stop there, our customers and prospects can’t afford for us to stop there.  We have to have the skills and be prepared to have the conversation.

Building skills and capability to have conversations is difficult.  We need to build the knowledge of our sales people–giving them the tools to engage in conversations.  They need to have deep understanding of our markets, customers, their business.  We need to understand their challenges and problems.  We need to be able to put ourselves in their shoes.

It goes further, we need to be confident enough to have and defend a point of view.  We need to connect the dots between what the customer wants, needs, or should do, with how we can help them to it.  We need to capture the customer’s imagination getting them to own it for themselves, inviting us to help lead them in the change.

There many more skills and capabilities that must be developed.  There are tools to help sales people conduct conversations.  I’ll stop here, but my point is that messaging and/or equipping our sales people to deliver messages is just the starting point.  We need to equip our sales people in engaging and leading impactful conversations with the customer.

Is your messaging generating conversations?  If not, you are generating junk.

Are you equipping your people to engage in and lead conversations?  This is where the leadership is, this is where you win.

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  1. Dave – Excellent post. I agree we must move from messaging to education. Also, brings sales and marketing together.

    Good content can provides a foundation for sales people to bring value to the conversation with a prospect. But to do that they must not just share the content, but know how the key points in the content can be put in context for the prospect. That context creates conversation and clarity.

    The sales person needs to highlight a point from the content, for example an ebook, that they feel is most relevant to the prospect. So, if it is an ebook on trends in data centers, the concept might be around how virtualization is enabling people to use less servers and less energy.

    There is a tremendous opportunity for marketing partner with sales and be able to provide a guide about each content asset, including key points and how to use it to create a conversation.

    • Cliff, thanks so much for joining the discussion with this awesome observation. You are 200% right, the new customer engagement model requires very tight integration between sales and marketing. Without this, we will lose opportunities. Thanks so much for the comment!

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