Earlier this week I was on a conference call with a senior executive from a multi-national and very prosperous document management manufacturer. In the introductions he thanked everyone for their time and then said he wanted to “conversate” about some of the issues we were seeing.
Every fiber in my being, every firing synapse, every racing impulse demanded that I interrupt and say, “I’m sorry, did you just say conversate? What the hell is conversate? Do you mean converse? Possibly have a conversation? Is that a regional thing because I am pretty sure conversate is not exactly in the dictionary.”
But I didn’t. It would have been even more rude than I generally allow myself to be, especially when I have not yet met face to face. I am not opposed to correcting grammar or syntax you understand, particularly if it is one of my salespeople. I have happily done that in front of clients because right is right and wrong is wrong. There is plenty of time for future generations to butcher and drown the English language so there is no need to look the other way and speed up the process.
But there is also an interesting subtext to that moment; where is the perforated line in business between being proper and polite at the expense of being authentic? Clearly the message is the massage and there should be a way to verbally navigate anything without being a jack-ass, but you still have to convey what you really think. Regardless of how concerned you might be about how it will be received.
For IOS as a sales organization that means that we have an obligation to tell the truth, to get the truth down to the nub even when it might not be terribly clever or expedient for us to do so.
Personally I will forgive a lot of things but being inauthentic by telling me what you think I want to hear is not one of them. I assume our clients are the same; if you want to continue a process that is strangling you just because it is comfortable we need to tell you. If you want to over spend on a solution to a problem with no ROI– we have to tell you with the same zeal as when we think you are cutting corners.
If we both always agree one of us is redundant. If we always agree one of us is being inauthentic. At IOS it is the idea that matters. Sometimes that trumps the polite myth that “the client is always right” which even today is far more pervasive than you might think.
The client was right to select us. It is now the IOS responsibility to be right on their behalf in solving their problem.
We will converse but we will not conversate. That I promise.