What Richard Branson Taught Me About Conversations

August 22, 2019

by Sercan “John” Topcu

No matter how big of a role technology plays in our day to day communication, we are still struggling to make communication meaningful enough to act on it one way or another. We are simply connecting, versus truly conversing; keeping us from attaining actionable value without bias or assumptions.

Richard Branson states that, “One of the biggest barriers which needs breaking down is the conversation barrier.” Especially today, when automation and data run supreme, this turns out to be truer than ever. For more than two years, I’ve been a contributor for a sales innovation lab, working on creating actionable and valuable conversations within IT, CX, PM/PSA, Media, and IoT industries.

Branson won’t remember this, but he leveraged the communication barrier quote as a response to my question in 2015, when I was a Hult Prize World Finalist with #TemboEducation. It was such a simple, but impactful approach to attaining actionable value that I made it my mantra. His quote as my mantra, I’ve learned how to drive purposeful conversations with transparency and honesty. This allows my counterparts and I to make more educated decisions, which leads to mutually actionable value. For the longest time, the paradox of choice came down to lack of information or lack of access to information. As info and data became ubiquitous, filtered, analyzed and visualized, the paradox of choice has changed to identifying the right information!

Therefore, to break the conversation barrier, like Branson suggests, we need to do our due diligence in understanding our counterparts’ processes, timelines, challenges, trends/seasonality and compelling imperatives.

How I do my due diligence!

For the cliché sales professional, these are the top-of-the-funnel/administrative activities that mostly seem as a waste of time, or as a hurdle. This bugs me! This is why, as a Forbes Under 30 entrepreneur and consultant, I still come across engineers/business developers, managers, directors, and execs that assume I got a hold of them because of a list. A list!

To balance my due diligence and my execution, I carve about 20% of my early morning into checking my tech stack for engagement KPI’s, my reminders, emails, and alerts to get a better feel of why and how I should be starting my conversations, and on what. This allows me to make sure that my conversations are actionable, since they always address the things that pertain to my counterparts.

3 Tips & Tricks You Need to Learn

1- First and foremast, have the right tech-stack

Leveraging SaaS platforms like Engagio, Marketo, Salesloft, LI Navigator, and more will help you leverage the right information, at the right time, using the right channels.

2- Go the Extra Mile

I also encourage anyone to go the extra mile, like I do, and Google and set alerts on the organization trends, releases, leadership changes, partner moves, and financials. This will help you get a more accurate bird’s eye view of how important what you’re considering to be of value is to your counterpart, especially at that time.

3- Empower your Data

Once you have the right tech stack and do the right research on the necessary information/data, you need to empower it. To do so, the information/data needs to turn into intelligence by aggregating all the respective research, engagement, and heuristic content together, under the right containers/clusters. This helps you create a centralized intelligence, which you can analyze to leverage for replicable messaging and processes.

Whether we are technical professionals like engineers or solution consultants, or we are business development professionals like media buyers or account directors, we are all looking for answers to our questions.

If we hold ourselves accountable to breaking the conversation barrier, we will always be addressing valuable information that pertains to our counterparts at the right time, from the right channels.

We need to start breaking the conversation barrier without any bias/assumptions, as the caller and the called, to drive actionable value each time!