Listening and Responding vs. Telling and Selling

by Jim Berkowitz on April 30, 2007

Here’s several excerpts from an interesting post by Don Dodge, the Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, Listening and Responding vs. Telling and Selling:

It struck me that technology has enabled us to get really good at “telling and selling”, but who is in charge of listening and responding?

Marketing people do the “telling” and sales people do the “selling”. But those are both outbound, one way, activities. Sales people will certainly respond to a lead or expression of interest, but that isn’t a conversation.

Technology and the Internet has enabled us to quickly update our accounts, find information, and buy things online. Companies can target their advertising using keyword search programs and deep web analytics tools. Call Centers have sophisticated voice menus designed to vector you to an automated answer or self service. How do you talk to a human and engage in a conversation?

Who at your company is in charge of listening and responding? Most companies have a big marketing department staffed with talented people who are experts at “crafting a message” or designing a campaign to target a very specific audience. They really aren’t looking to engage with the customer, and in most cases aren’t trained to do it.

Blogs are a great way to engage in a conversation, what Robert Scoble calls Naked Conversations in his book. Blogs are personal…they are written by a real person, not a marketing department. Blogs encourage dialog, questions, and candid answers. I get email from blog readers everyday asking questions, challenging assumptions, offering advice, and asking for help finding the right person at Microsoft. There are over 4,000 employee bloggers at Microsoft from every group and from every geography in the world. These are employees from engineering, customer support, product strategy, and yes, sales and marketing. We put a personal face on Microsoft and do our best to engage all of you in a conversation.

How does it work at your company? Who is in charge of listening and responding? Do employees at your company blog? Believe it or not, there are still many companies that prohibit employee blogging due to legal risks or because they are nervous employees will say the wrong thing. If you trust your sales and customer support people to talk to customers, and you trust marketing people to talk to the press, is it such a big leap to trust them to engage in a conversation on a blog? Think about it…and join the conversation.

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