Two Out of Three Is Bad, Part 3: When the Management is Missing


A client in the technology/analytics space was expanding rapidly. This meant bringing in new sales people, account managers, and technical experts. They were hiring people all over the U.S., especially on the coasts where a lot of their clients are located. Their solution is complex, and their customers split between big end-users and smaller service providers who bundle the technology into their own offering. This would be a difficult management transition for any company.

The newcomers all brought technical chops in their various areas, but the company hadn’t made time to develop a system for training new people in the enterprise story. Neither had it prioritized coaching for all of the new customer conversations about to take place.  As a result, there was little consistency in what people were saying. It was the “Wild West” out there where their message hit the market.

In my work over the years with different types of companies, I have found that three components—Message, Messengers, and Management—contribute to a company’s success (or failure) in customer conversations. Many organizations are strong in two components, but weak in the third. When the Message and Messenger are strong, but good Management isn’t supporting them, the company can lose control.

The cost of this “Wild West” style (I can’t call it an “approach” because it is actually the lack of one) can be as destructive as a shoot-out at the OK Corral. The internal disconnects among Sales, Marketing, Service, etc. are confusing to customers, who get different stories and promises from different people in the organization. It is equally frustrating to the sales and service people who would be much happier with some guidance. They don’t necessarily want a carved-in-stone script; the most effective sales people value their autonomy.

The answer lies somewhere between “anything goes” and “command and control.” I recommend bringing together your best talent across business units to create a playbook. Stock it with talking points that offer guidance on how to engage customers, share stories, and convey the things that make your organization special. The playbook doesn’t demand compliance with a script, but supports enough consistency to deliver good customer experiences.

The musician and singer Meat Loaf famously sang, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” With all due respect to Meat Loaf, that doesn’t hold true in the world of marketing and business growth. It takes a consistent focus from management on the customer conversation to tame the Wild West.

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