Change the Conversation.

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Change the conversationLast week’s “MadMen” season finale featured some of the best one-liners of the year.   (My personal favorite came from Roger Sterling – of course:  “You know what they say about Detroit. It’s all fun and games til they shoot you in the face.”) But there’s one line that’s been repeated across many seasons, first by Don Draper and more recently by his protegee and alter ego Peggy Olson:  “If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation.”   This is a lot deeper than it looks at first glance.  Sure it’s a metaphor for the total self-reinvention of both characters (in Don’s case, he’s his own most successful image campaign.)  But it carries a significant lesson for both companies and individual sellers in our world.

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Over the last 16 years working with digital companies large and small, I’ve watched them squander massive amounts of time and resources answering a question nobody cares about:  “Who Are We?”  The thinking goes that if we can only write a clear enough description of who we are – if we can just nail the PowerPoint or the sizzle reel – then we’ll bring on that moment of epiphany and they will understand us, buy us, love us.  But then, of course, you have to account for all those pesky competitors with their rival claims and narratives.  So the adjustment, the tinkering and the fussing continue. But before you waste another minute tightening the bolts on your “identity pitch,” consider this:  you’re probably answering a lot of potential issues and questions that your customers don’t care about anyway.  (You think they’re obsessed about which box you’re in on the LUMAscape chart?  Really?)

If you don’t like what they’re saying about you….  What they’re really saying about you is….well, nothing.  Scratch the surface and you realize that if a client’s not already working with your company then their beliefs about you are almost non-existent.  You are a tabula rasa, a cipher.  And all the positioning statements and videos and pages of customer logos in the world are not going to change that.  The customer just doesn’t give two shits about your existential crisis.

…change the conversation.  As you’ve read here before, the very first thing you put in front of the customer is the problem you’re prepared to help solve.  Challenge them, disrupt their thinking, show them a new take on an issue they’ve not considered. Do something relevant.  Say something shocking.  Do anything but “introduce yourself.”  First, they will care that you’ve brought and agenda that’s about them;  then they’ll get emotionally connected with the problem or issue you’re prepared to take on; then – and only then – will they want to know your bio, credentials and track record.

Change the customer conversation now.  Especially how it starts.

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