I recently experienced a somewhat one-sided conversation, in which I was granted only sufficient time to offer the verbal equivalent of a ‘tweet’ between each ‘essay’ that my conversation partner offered. While it was with an experienced individual many years my senior and I enjoyed the conversation, it got me thinking about ‘tweet and essay’ conversations in general.
Results of ‘Tweet and Essay’ Conversations
We can find ‘tweet and essay’ conversations all around us. They are generally frustrating for the one allowed only tweets and misleading for the one speaking in essays. It is too easy to misunderstand a tweet, particularly one delivered in a level of panic comparable to a movie hero diving through a closing door. At the end, the essay-giver does not really know what the tweeter thinks. Conversely, the tweeter’s frustration level makes it difficult to truly listen attentively to the essay-giver.
This is a very visible phenomenon in the media’s relationship to politics or business. How often does a reporter give a politician or a business executive the chance to answer in essays? Or if the reporter does, how often is the whole essay presented to the public? No, the tendency is to gather only a tweet—or take the most hated tweet from a larger given answer—and write an opinion essay about that tweet.
It’s a one-sided conversation at the expense of the reader, who does not learn what the politician or business leader actually thinks.
It is even more pronounced in social media conversations. True, there are online comments boards that only allow a tweet (such as the site that invented the term), but there are others that will allow for an essay. But how often do people actually take the time to read someone else’s essay or write their own? In absence of the time it takes to write a well-thought opinion, the use of overgeneralized emotion-driven statements reigns supreme, adding to the growing distrust and misunderstanding between individuals that we see in our world today.
‘Tweet and Essay’ Conversations in Business
Business environments are far from immune to these types of conversations. In fact, they are among the environments where this problem can be most pronounced. Such conversations can occur verbally in staff meetings, formal conversations, or even informal discussions in the halls. They can also occur in written form.
Such ‘tweet and essay’ conversations in business are not inherently negative, if handled well, and are often unavoidable due to time pressures. However, their shortcomings must be recognized. All parties involved must remember that a tweet does not tell a full story, and that it is easy to misinterpret a tweet and take the wrong action.
‘Tweet and Essay’ Conversations in B2B Sales
In the win loss analysis work I do, I see these ‘tweet and essay’ conversations described by my clients’ potential buyers. Sometimes my client’s sales team delivers essays of explanation about a product or service, leaving the buyer only time to reply in tweets.
Such sales teams struggle to win deals!
On occasion, however, I also hear of sales teams that allow the buyer to speak in essays, answering with only brief clarifying questions or statements of, “Yes, we can do that too!” This approach yields mixed results. Some buyers like the feeling of being ‘listened to’ that this approach generates. However, it is too common for such buyers to become dissatisfied post-purchase if our client delivers in a manner other than what the buyer expected. As in other scenarios, the tweets delivered by a sales team are too easy to misinterpret. The buyer hears what they want to hear, sometimes to their future disappointment.
Just as in other situations, a sales process can yield the best results when both sales team and buyer provide input to the conversation. Detailed responses from the sales team help ensure that the buyer does not misunderstand what the vendor can do or intends to do. Detailed responses from the buyer help the vendor verify that they have not missed any requirements and will truly meet the business needs.
I have seen some of my client’s strongest wins come from cases where it was allowed to collaborate with the buyer on the requirements to some degree. Other strong wins have come from cases where my client responded to a detailed RFP with an equally detailed proposal. Whether the conversation takes place verbally or in written form, it is very valuable to both buyer and vendor. The information exchange is crucial to realizing a strong result.
Steps to Take
Ultimately, ‘tweet and essay’ conversations will be unavoidable in some cases. That said, I think they are avoidable more often than people realize. And when it comes to winning a business deal, they should be actively avoided.
- Do you want to understand what your buyers’ needs are? Listen carefully!
- Do you want your buyer to correctly understand what you can do? Give them the details!
- Do you want to leave no room for misinterpretation? Inform them verbally and in writing!
Then, remember that it is not a formal debate: we’re not talking present-present-rebuttal-rebuttal here. The conversation must be as organic as the RFP process allows, with each side listening to the other and sharing information in the moment it is pertinent. Then, both buyer and vendor can arrive at a mutual understanding of the needs, capabilities, and road map to get to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.