Social media experts will tell you to think of your social media marketing as a “conversation” with your content consumers. The idea is to engage those prospective customers and influencers over time to keep you top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy. But is the technology you’re using or the way you’re “processing your leads” actually damaging the discourse? Our recent contact with a major player in the sales enablement business made us think it’s highly possible.
Consider the first definition of the word conversation listed on Dictionary.com, “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.” (The italics were added to illustrate the vocal aspect of the definition in contrast to what social media-lites consider a conversation in today’s world.)
While making a casual visit to the sales enabling company’s website, a white paper was promoted that seemed of mild interest. The web form was already completed from a previous request so clicking once for a download was all that was needed. Before the document even started to download, the phone rang. A fairly fresh voice acknowledged the web request and asked what was of specific interest.
Explaining to the caller that the paper addressed only a nascent need of slight interest prompted him to ask what else was needed because they “have a lot of other content pieces they could send.” After he read a list of content topics, it sounded like two might be germane and he emailed them and seemed relieved that he’d provided some value.
Remember that the above definition of conversation included words like spoken, oral and talk. These concepts seemed to be completely lost as the sales process was applied and reading homework was assigned. This sounded like correspondence and not conversation. Where was the probing for needs, consultative selling or any attempt to influence? Thus far, content motivated an inquiry which yielded a verbal conversation that prompted more content to read.
If the caller had asked a few questions and maybe fostered an understanding of how any pain points he uncovered would be addressed by their solutions, there might be a proposal in the works. Instead, not only is the weekend’s homework likely to slow the sales process but the impression that their system is designed to keep prospects in this continual content/conversation loop will make sure that this homework makes it to the bottom of the pile.
Most surprising was that this same rep had talked with us about something of true interest only 13 days before as the result of a similar download and there was no mention of that true sales opportunity in this conversation. This inquiry was treated as a discreet transaction as opposed to one of several interactions that could shape the company’s view of us that would build our relationship and make us buy and refer.
With all the hype about tools for sales acceleration and lead processing, it’s easy to overlook that quality contact between two humans is what will truly advance any effort to educate and influence someone to buy. If we’ve learned anything in 12 years of making direct contact with and influencing high level buyers, it is that the verbal conversations is where the sales process is truly accelerated.