What’s so good about two people conversing?

My phone hardly ever rings these days.

I am inundated by emails. My family now seem to prefer WhatsApp. Business life is dominated by Zoom meetings and webinars.

What I crave is old fashioned conversation. By phone is OK (yes, it does actually work as a phone, kids); in person is much better.

It made me think about what’s so good about two people conversing. The dictionary defines a conversation as: a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

Crucial to me is the concept of “exchange” – the two-way nature of a conversation, the fact that the other party is willing to listen to me and vice versa. We build on each other’s ideas and thoughts, we may even together come up with new thinking/ideas or opportunities. I don’t think I have enough of this kind of communication in my life – and it used to be a staple part of it. It’s not just the pandemic, it’s also the increasing reliance on electronic communication generally. Which (for me) lacks the free-flowing aspects of a good proper chat? Are we missing the potential of old school conversation?

What does that mean for category management and shopper insights?

Well, I think we should sometimes initiate conversations not presentations or worse still “decks” or “reports”. Sometimes it’s good, very good,  just to exchange ideas and thinking.

When we meet buyers, for example, do we take time to ask questions and listen? Do we give time to informal discussion? In our own meetings do we just “chat”? Or do we fling information at each other back and forth hoping we can “win” by more of our stuff sticking than theirs?

When we meet brand managers do we listen to what they are worried about? When we talk to the sales team, do we exchange views about the category or seek only to impress them with ours?

It can be helpful to always be ready with “conversation starters”. For example, here are some ideas – please share your own!

“What’s the latest big mandate from [your boss] you guys are working on?”

“I guess things are pretty manic, but what’s really keeping you awake at night?”

“If you had to choose one, would you fix right now –  profitability or growth?”

“Who out there is doing this well, would you say?”

Maybe I should “get with the tech”, and accept virtual isolation.  If so, I apologize. But maybe some of you feel the same way and crave old school conversation?

About the author: Roger Jackson is CEO of Shopper Intelligence, with 30 years of experience in marketing and consumer goods, with expertise in shopper insights and innovative tech solutions in shopper research.