The Missing Art and Science of Dialogue in Marketing and Sales

Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito

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Conversation (Photo credit: Robert Tea)

If you have not been living under a rock the past five years, it is hard not to notice the ubiquitous nature of an always-on society beginning to emerge.  Parenting now involves monitoring teens tethered to digital devices.  Car manufacturers are increasingly attempting to create a digital cave as part of your driving experience.  It is apparent the tethers of digital technology are affecting every facet of life.

The world of B2B business has been rocked by these changes.   Digital technology is creating newfound abilities to be more efficient, effective, productive, and collaborative.  These digital advancements are proving to be valuable for adaptable firms.  When we look at the marketing and sales functions of B2B businesses today, we find a maddening search underway on how to adapt to the digital and buyer revolution underway.

Blinded By Terms

This maddening search has created an explosion of new terms over the past five years.   Evidence of this is a new lexicon consisting of social media, social marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, content selling, social selling, insight selling, online marketing, and much more.  At times each promising just the ticket, which will have you connected with buyers today with untouchable competitive advantage.

The number of these new terms and approaches, which has emerged over the past few years suggest the maddening search is still on.  In my hundreds of interviews with buyers over the past few years, on behalf of companies attempting deeper understanding, buyers outside of marketing and sales functions rarely use these terms.   It is not  – that  – they are not aware, but are outside observers to them.

This maddening search suggests something very important is being missed.

A Missing Art and Science

The advent of digital technology has created better tools.  Yet, it is how we use such tools to make a difference.  If we use such tools within the context of out-dated product marketing and selling precepts, then the tools just foster more efficient one-way communications.

There have been efforts to foster more conversation and more engagement.  We even have a term for this – conversation marketing.   A problem surfaces here.  When you attempt to have a conversation within old contexts – guess what?  Maybe the other party – buyers – is not interested in talking.

Additionally, conversation may be the wrong context.

Conversation usually refers to an informal exchange of thoughts, ideas, opinions, and etc.  In my interviews with buyers, there appears to be something more missing.  What is missing is the art and science of dialogue.  What is the difference between dialogue and conversation?  Are they not the same?  Not necessarily.  Dialogue is usually defined within a context of people taking part in a conversation towards an attempt to resolve a problem or reach a mutual understanding.

The Struggle Continues

Understanding the nuances and differences between one-way conversation and two-way dialogue is becoming more important.  Buyers today are seeking constructive dialogue, which helps them to resolve a problem and accomplish goals.  They do not want to have just a conversation nor just listen to one-way communications on how you think you are the best one for the job.

How to have constructive dialogues with buyers today is the ongoing struggle for most B2B organizations. In which, it is very difficult to do so if you know nothing about them, the problem they are trying to resolve, and the goals they are attempting to accomplish.  If this is the case, you are left with no choice but one-way communication – posing as a conversation.

Has marketing and sales lost the art and science of dialogue?  In many ways, I say yes.  There is a little bit of irony in all this.  Before the Internet and the introduction of new digital technologies, the B2B organizations, which excelled, did so because they were great at constructive dialoguing.

All these new terms and buzzwords may be coming with a price – companies losing their skills and competencies in having dialogues with their buyers and customers.  To get it back, companies will need to make the critical effort in time and resources to learn about what problems are in need of resolving and what goals buyers and customers wish to accomplish.

Only then can you begin to figure out how to use new digital technologies in ways, which foster effective dialogues.

If you wish to have a constructive dialogue about this article, reach out to me.  There is no doubt we will learn a thing or two together.

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