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Scaling “Authentic Conversations”

by David Brock on November 13th, 2018

I just received one of those emails.  I’m on a distribution list, I’ve been invited to hear a webinar on “How do you scale authentic communications.”  Among the topics they will be covering are:  “how to automate meaningful and timely follow up,” and “how much time is too much time spent on personalizing emails………” (Interestingly, the only personalization in this email was my name. Nothing else was specific to our company or our priorities)

Huuughhhh………?????

Authenticity at scale??????

In fairness, I’m not going to sign up for this webinar, so I have no idea what this vendor will present.  Perhaps their topics are meant to stir controversy.  But just taking this whole topic at face value, this seems to be the ultimate in irony.

Why would we want to — or even need to scale authentic communications?  Can we even be “authentic” at scale?

Don’t they become “inauthentic” if we start scaling, automating, and personalizing just enough and not too much?  I’m imagining advice like, “make it ‘Dear Dave,’ not ‘Dear Occupant or Current Resident…..'”

I decided to look at definitions of authenticity, most of them refer to things like “genuineness, trustworthiness, credibility, richness, valuing relationship…”

Somehow, the concepts of authenticity at scale, automating authenticity, and “just enough” personalization seem to be in conflict with the real principles of authenticity.  Authenticity is not just about being credible and truthful in our engagement.  As noted in the definition, authenticity has qualities of richness and genuineness.

It seems to me, that the opposite point of view might be more insightful.  If we are truly authentic in our conversations, can we even conduct them at scale, or do we even want to/need to conduct them at scale?

Inevitably, it seems the “need” to have conversations at scale is primarily driven by our inability to engage the customers we really need to be talking to.  It seems the “selling industry” is in a volume death spiral.  Response rates from emails are plummeting.  Phone call answer rates are plummeting.  The answer to these issues seems to be further ramping the volume, doing more of the same thing, often casting wider nets, but not changing how we tried to engage those we are trying to reach.

If we chose to change our engagement process, focusing on real authenticity, wouldn’t we be able to engage a higher number of people?  Wouldn’t that drive down the need to scale?  And if we had to spend less time at scaling, couldn’t we spend more time understanding those fewer people we need to speak with, and couldn’t we invest in truly authentic conversations.

In some sense though, I think there may be a fear or an aversion to authentic conversations.

I wonder if, too often, we just don’t have anything to say.  We don’t know the customer, their markets, their challenges.  We don’t understand or take the time to understand them as people.  We have been trained so well on pitching, that we have lost the ability to engage in a real conversation.  That’s a problem if we want to be authentic.

Or perhaps we don’t care.  I happen to believe–or hope–there are very few of us who don’t care about our customers and their success.  But there are some.

What if, instead of trying to scale authentic conversations, we first focused on becoming better at having these conversations?  If we became better at creating real value in each interaction and conversation, the need to scale these conversations may become irrelevant.  The conversations we are having, produce more–both directly and indirectly, so we don’t have to have as many.

What am I missing, can we, do we really want to have “authentic conversations at scale?”  Or perhaps, we just want the ability to engage authentically?

 

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