Scaling “Authentic Conversations”


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I just received one of those emails.  I’m on a distribution list, I’ve been invited to hear a webinar on “How do you scale authentic communications.”  Among the topics they will be covering are:  “how to automate meaningful and timely follow up,” and “how much time is too much time spent on personalizing emails………” (Interestingly, the only personalization in this email was my name. Nothing else was specific to our company or our priorities)


Authenticity at scale??????

In fairness, I’m not going to sign up for this webinar, so I have no idea what this vendor will present.  Perhaps their topics are meant to stir controversy.  But just taking this whole topic at face value, this seems to be the ultimate in irony.

Why would we want to — or even need to scale authentic communications?  Can we even be “authentic” at scale?

Don’t they become “inauthentic” if we start scaling, automating, and personalizing just enough and not too much?  I’m imagining advice like, “make it ‘Dear Dave,’ not ‘Dear Occupant or Current Resident…..’”

I decided to look at definitions of authenticity, most of them refer to things like “genuineness, trustworthiness, credibility, richness, valuing relationship…”

Somehow, the concepts of authenticity at scale, automating authenticity, and “just enough” personalization seem to be in conflict with the real principles of authenticity.  Authenticity is not just about being credible and truthful in our engagement.  As noted in the definition, authenticity has qualities of richness and genuineness.

It seems to me, that the opposite point of view might be more insightful.  If we are truly authentic in our conversations, can we even conduct them at scale, or do we even want to/need to conduct them at scale?

Inevitably, it seems the “need” to have conversations at scale is primarily driven by our inability to engage the customers we really need to be talking to.  It seems the “selling industry” is in a volume death spiral.  Response rates from emails are plummeting.  Phone call answer rates are plummeting.  The answer to these issues seems to be further ramping the volume, doing more of the same thing, often casting wider nets, but not changing how we tried to engage those we are trying to reach.

If we chose to change our engagement process, focusing on real authenticity, wouldn’t we be able to engage a higher number of people?  Wouldn’t that drive down the need to scale?  And if we had to spend less time at scaling, couldn’t we spend more time understanding those fewer people we need to speak with, and couldn’t we invest in truly authentic conversations.

In some sense though, I think there may be a fear or an aversion to authentic conversations.

I wonder if, too often, we just don’t have anything to say.  We don’t know the customer, their markets, their challenges.  We don’t understand or take the time to understand them as people.  We have been trained so well on pitching, that we have lost the ability to engage in a real conversation.  That’s a problem if we want to be authentic.

Or perhaps we don’t care.  I happen to believe–or hope–there are very few of us who don’t care about our customers and their success.  But there are some.

What if, instead of trying to scale authentic conversations, we first focused on becoming better at having these conversations?  If we became better at creating real value in each interaction and conversation, the need to scale these conversations may become irrelevant.  The conversations we are having, produce more–both directly and indirectly, so we don’t have to have as many.

What am I missing, can we, do we really want to have “authentic conversations at scale?”  Or perhaps, we just want the ability to engage authentically?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Hi Dave, very good article – stirring controversy 🙂

    Let me take the opposite position and say that yes, we need to be able to grow authenticity at scale in order to succeed in our economic system. I would argue that not all of the people we should talk to (or need to talk to) do know that they actually are the ones that we need to talk to. Some might not know that they have a demand (look at the success of smart phones). In addition, being a tech person at heart, I would say that a machine can be more authentic than people. Different people are just, different. Authentic in their own way, but not authentic in their company way. Third, in mass markets, you cannot have enough people to answer all the requests in time.

    So if I, for the sake of the argument, would say that the need for conversation arises due to the need for our product, I need to be able to scale while maintaining authenticity. In that sense, engaging authentically is just the first step to leading authentic conversations at scale.

    Just my 2 ct from Down Under

  2. Thomas: Thanks for the thoughtful/provocative comments, I don’t disagree, but don’t quite agree. Part of it is you are expanding the conversation in an important new direction. Some thoughts:

    1. I worry that people aren’t having “authentic conversations” in the first place. The drive to scale is because for those conversations they are having, they aren’t producing the necessary results, so the reaction is always to run the math and do more. What they don’t realize is it’s the lack of authenticity, in the first place, that is causing them not to produce results.
    2. However, once you are able to have real/authentic conversations, it makes huge sense to scale them to drive growth.
    3. I completely agree that many of the people we need to be talking to don’t know it. That’s the entire undeerlying principle to Insight/Challenger based selling. I do believe an Iceberg model is relevant. The people that have the obvious needs are what we see above the waterline. But the real opportunity is what’s below the waterline.
    4. I think AI/Machine Learning offers us huge promise in getting to the right people at the right time with the right message. Working with one of our clients and their customer (actually with a bank in Australia), we were able to use basically sophisticated analytics to move first call conversions from 17-82%.) So AI/ML has great promise to improve our targeting and messaging, and can help get the right marketing messages in front of the right time. But, as Harari says, there is a difference between intelligence and consciousness. AI/ML is great at the former and incapable of the latter. So perhaps, the issue is more one of does authenticity imply the consciousness connection? I don’t know if you’ve read it yet, but Harari’s 21 Lessons…. is an awesome read and attacks this issue in a very interesting way.

    Hope this makes sense, Thanks for taking the conversation this direction.

  3. thanks for your reply Dave! I think that our thoughts are pretty similar. Actually I haven’t yet read Harari’s book. Looks like I should add it to the reading list. Thanks for that tip, too!


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