Conversation Enablement – Presentations are about delivery. Conversations are about discovery.

Mark S. Bonchek took the time to answer some questions I had asked as comments on his blog post “Can We Talk?”.

Here are his answers as published in his blog post “Conversation Enablement” from February 3, 2009:

“Commenting on my earlier post “Can We Talk”, Paul agreed that “conversation enablement is the way to go” and asked some great questions.  They were so good that I’m going to use them as the structure for this post.  Hopefully they will spark further comments … and perhaps a conversation.”

Who is a thought leader in that space?

“I actually haven’t seen many thought leaders on real conversation enablement in sales situations.  There are a number of thought leaders on conversational marketing, but they don’t really address what happens one-on-one with a buyer, nor how to enable conversations that a buyer has internally with stakeholders.  Some of the sales training companies like The Complex Sale or Executive Conversation cover the conversational dimension of selling, but they tend to focus on sales skills, not what needs to happen to enable the conversation. […]”

Where can I find an approach for Conversation Enablement that works?

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a systematic approach yet for conversation enablement.  Or at least I haven’t found one.  I think one of our companies, Truman Company, knows as much about it as anyone, but it isn’t yet systematized.  Perhaps we should start a stub on Wikipedia?”

Are we talking wikinomics and opening up of enterprise social networks to our customers to get the voice of the customer in our organization?

“I think this could be considered in a broader definition of conversation enablement.  In some sense, even the scripts used in call centers could be considered conversation enablement — whatever helps employees hold productive conversations with customers and buyers.”

Or are we talking about our internal sales enablement application having more web2.0 components and providing the sales force with more food for thought for better conversations?

“This is where my interest has been:  in B2B settings, enabling better conversations among sales people about how to sell, enabling conversation among customers, and enabling better conversations by sales people with customers.”

Should the conversation with the customer happen online more often and face to face less often to leverage the collective conversation skills of more of my employees?

“It depends on the level of the customer in their organization.  As you move up into the managerial and executive ranks, you need to have a much greater focus on face-to-face.”

Or are we looking for more dynamic client presentations that can be generated customized by audience, industry vertical, type of meeting, country, etc…?

“This is necessary but not sufficient.  And it leads to my main point.  A conversation is not a presentation, no matter how customized it might be.  A presentation can help to provide context and be a catalyst for a conversation.  But it is not a conversation.  In a presentation, you know where you are going.  In a conversation, you don’t.  Presentations are about delivery. Conversations are about discovery.

We are having a conversation about conversation enablement because I don’t know the answers. If I did, I could just give a presentation.  But for now, we’ll need to discover the answer together in the context of a conversation.”

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