The Science Of Customer Connections With Jim Karrh

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TSP Jim | Science Of Customer Connections

Episode Summary:

There is no magic bullet, there’s a missing bullet. In this episode, Jim Karrh, PhD, joins John Livesay as they discuss the science of customer connections and how you manage the messaging you send out. Jim dives into the importance of consistency in order to build trust with your customer and promote loyalty. If you’re going to recommend something to somebody, be sure to give the specifics of why you think they would like it. Jim and John share their thoughts on the importance of storytelling and the habits you need to remain consistent and develop trustworthiness. Get an inside look at how you can manage your message and Jim’s approach to coaching his clients to be intentional.

Listen To The Episode Here:

The Science Of Customer Connections With Jim Karrh

Our guest is Jim Karrh, the author of The Science of Customer Connections. He said there is no magic bullet. There’s a missing bullet. That’s how you’re managing the messaging you send out. He also talks about the importance of being consistent in order to build trust. He says, “If you’re going to recommend something to somebody, be sure to give the specific of why you think they would like it.” Enjoy the episode.

Our guest is Jim Karrh, who is a PhD and he guides business professionals, teams and entire organizations to stand out through better messaging. It in turn produces better customer relationships, stronger brands, and more growth opportunities. Whether his clients need guidance in the form of speaking consulting or coaching, Jim offers a perspective rooted in his world-class experience and training.

As a consultant and coach, Jim has served clients on three continents, including associations, small businesses, high tech companies that are big into growth as they all are, and North America’s largest martial arts organizations, and a dozen members of the Fortune 500. He’s helped America’s oldest and continuously produced brands of bottled water to grow again. He’s a popular speaker at events that includes the CMO Summit and Packaging That Sells. He’s got a book that I can’t wait to dive in and ask him about, The Science of Customer Connections. Jim, welcome to the show.

It’s pleasure to be here. I’ve been looking forward to our conversation, especially because I know that your readers are all about how we can use messaging, stories, and conversations to sell stuff.

It’s all about that successful pitch. Before we get into your expertise on how we manage the message, let’s find out a little bit about your own story of origin. It’s one of my favorite places to start. Everyone thinks you had this linear growth path most likely. Typically, that is not the case I find from the guests I’ve had. You can go back as far as you want, your childhood, high school, college, wherever you want.

If linear means it’s full of 90-degree angles and 180 turns, to some degree, they are lines pieced together and for your readers as well. It’s been a combination of things, especially along my professional path. I hail from a little town in the Southern half of Georgia. My dad grew pine trees and my mother ran a dress shop off the Courthouse Square, Mayberry-esque in many ways. Professionally, early on, I was motivated by desire to be a media mogul. I always thought that would be cool to get into radio and TV, which got me interested in communication. In terms of work, I’ve had a business degree and an MBA from Duke University.

Be consistent to build trust. Consistency is the goal, not perfection. Click To Tweet

I did some work with small business for a while. I went back to get a PhD because I thought teaching and consulting are neat career path. Along the way, I get this combination. I’ve been a tenured marketing professor. I left that when a consulting client asked me to get a real job. I join him and his team as Chief Marketing Officer for a midsize private business. It’s getting some dirt under your fingernails. Take all the big concepts and see how you can market still for business that was stagnant. For the last little more than a decade, I’ve been working more on my own with field sales teams, leadership teams, and companies, helping them. I do that through consulting, speaking, and coaching work.

Let’s double click into your experience because I always love when speakers can show empathy for the audiences that they speak to because you’ve been in their shoes. For example, when I’m speaking to audience of salespeople, I sold advertising for over fifteen years and a multimillion-dollar mainframe computer back in the day. I understand pressures of quotas, deadlines, competitions and not taking rejection personally. You, as a former Chief Marketing Officer for a water company and know how challenging it is to balance marketing and sales, I’m sure there are a couple of stories there that you can share that gave you some expertise in your speaking and in the book.

Trying to balance marketing and sales sometimes is resolving the Hatfield–McCoy feud between marketing and sales to at least get the areas to work together. What I find is whether you’re on your own, you have a small business, or you’re operating in a big corporate environment, aligning marketing and sales to be able to have that better pitch or message, and accelerate sales is a big challenge for lots of reasons that I’m sure everyone’s familiar with. One of the things that I’ve found through these different experiences and a lot of it is working through with field salespeople, sales leaders, executive teams, subject matter experts, trying to orchestrate all of this together, is how to even think about marketing and sales in the way that it should work.

These are related areas. I’m a marketing person and I love my marketing people, but a lot of it is based on overall positioning, whether we talk about the brand or your reputation. It’s how you’re set in the marketplace, trying to get a sense of how you’re positioned against named competitors, against not doing anything at all, what you’re known for, and sometimes developing leads and opportunities for the sales team. For the selling part, I come into this a lot with messaging because messaging is such a broad term in terms of actual human conversations. Whether it be the sales team, the subject matter experts or other people inside or outside of your company, they talk about the business, the questions that they ask, specific stories that they share, the things that they talk about in human interaction.

When it’s good and done, those things fit together. There’s good positioning in the way that you’re knowing and establish your credibility, but oftentimes those things get lost. The message doesn’t seem to work its way into the everyday machinations. That’s part of what I work on there. It’s both the marketing piece of knowing where you fit, whom you serve, where the priority should be, but then there’s the how on the very specific conversation. If I’m meeting with a financial buyer or whatever that case may be, every conversation is not some scripted robotic thing. It has to be based in empathy and understanding of the buyer situation and the language that they would use for their problem. That’s the thing to try to manage, to orchestrate, and get very intentional.

Ideally, what marketing is creating and putting out into the world of brand and attributes is consistent so that when they hear or interact with salespeople, they’re saying the same things. It’s not a complete disconnect for a potential customer. It’s the takeaway I got there. The other thing that you said that is important is that marketing messages are both internal and external. Most people assume, “You’re running ads and commercials.” A lot of it is internal messaging, which include getting new talent. I was speaking to the CMO of Domino’s Pizza. I asked him, “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?”

TSP Jim | Science Of Customer Connections

The Science of Customer Connections: Manage Your Message to Grow Your Business

He said, “It’s getting tech talent to come work here.” I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting, “Our competition,” or they’re big on promoting their app that tracks your orders. He said, “We used to say that we’re a pizza company who uses tech to try and get tech people. Now, we say we’re an eCommerce company that happens to sell pizza.” I said, “That sounds a lot like Amazon that happened to sell books when they started.” I wanted to get your take on that use of messaging to recruit people.

You raise a couple of points there. Let’s take that first one about internal and external messages. There’s good news here, you don’t have to be perfect. It’s never going to be completely consistent, but those things are intertwined. We’re in a time of economic distress, high unemployment, and trying to get back on it. Trying to get and keep the right talent inside your organization is a big deal. Part of it is people will say, “What’s the why behind your business, in other areas and the flexibility that they give you?” One of the things that I find, and if you’re a leader in a business, even a smaller one, you might be surprised.

In fact, you might be a little depressed that a lot of the people in your business don’t know all the things you sell. They probably don’t know who an ideal customer or client is for your business. They can’t articulate it. They probably don’t know 1 or 2 key stories about how you’ve helped someone in a certain way and the benefits that people get from business with. It’s going to be a very frustrating thing for the leadership, for sales leaders and other leaders inside the company. The whole effort here about being intentional has a lot of benefit for getting people on the inside, even if they’re not customer-facing, even if they’re not salespeople to get a sense that they can articulate about what you’re all about as a company.

As a way of attracting the right fit talent and keeping them there so people feel like that’s aligned. We don’t like any inconsistency. I’ll touch on another point because I know it’s important, which is establishing trust. Something that is worth considering is the importance of consistency in being seen as trustworthy by building trust. Part of it is the consistency of what’s on your website, what’s in your social media messaging versus what is being said in more analog everyday types of conversations. That’s the marketing and sales disconnect that can come in sometimes. All the marketing messaging and the collateral isn’t in line. Maybe either field sales people or your service people don’t fully know it.

They don’t know what’s out there and they don’t even believe it. It seems like marketing speak. There’s that consistency online and offline of your message out into the marketplace. We are comfortable in our own language, our own stories, our own stuff. If you have five different people out there in the marketplace talking to customers or clients, a given customer or client or organization would be hearing from, and they’re hearing different things from those five people, they won’t know what to believe. They won’t believe much of anything about you. Getting some consistency in how those stories are shared across people, not in a scripted way because people can spot if it’s scripted right away, and your best people will be the first ones to resist a script because it’s disrespectful to them. Some general consistency and the things that people know, some of the stories that they share is important for building trustworthiness.

Be consistent to build trust, that’s the summary of what you said, which is so valuable. Let’s dive into your book, The Science of Customer Connections. I was watching your speaker video and you were talking about that people ask you all the time, “What’s the magic bullet?” There isn’t a magic bullet. There’s a missing bullet. Now, we’re on the edge of our seats. What is the missing bullet?

When you can bring together message, messengers, and management habits in a consistent way, you will have cracked the code. Click To Tweet

It is the confidence that people have in talking about your business. That probably feels very familiar to your readers. If you find yourself having a lot more confidence in the value that you offer than in how to talk about it, then you’re in good company. I’m going to find it all the way from groups of surveys that I’ve seen with groups of B2B salespeople, to the individual leaders that I speak with. There’s a lot more confidence of knowing that we have something good to offer them and what to say. There’s even less confidence that other people in our company will say it the right way or that they know what we are talking about. That’s the missing key. We try to bring that together, to build a little fluency, a little confidence of how you and the people around your business talk about it. It seemed very squishy and mysterious. It’s pretty simple in concept. There are a few simple things that you can do to close that gap.

You talked about if your business story is clear, then the magic happens where it gets shared. Do you have an example of that either through when you were the CMO of that water company or some client you’ve worked with, where the minute that message got so concise, understandable, and consistent, that people could start sharing it and then it took off?

There are a lot of stories to share on the specifics. I’ll share one, but just think about in our own lives. If you go to a great restaurant or you see a show, you are binge watching and you wanted to recommend that to somebody else, you want to share it. Someone will say, “What’s the story about? Why did you like it? Why do you think I would like it?” They enjoy the fact that you were making a recommendation to them and you enjoy the fact that you’re sharing something you think that another person would like, and you thought about them specifically. There is a charge that comes out of being able to finally get a message that is memorable, conversational, and inherently sharable.

Among lots of examples was a couple of years ago, they put together a messaging playbook for a company that sold software. We had all their salespeople, their leaders, and a lot of their support staff that were coming into a launch event. We were going through all this new messaging and giving people some practice for over a couple of days. In day one, there was a group of people who were coming in. A lot of them were fairly young and new to the company. They were working in sales support, sales operations. They said, “Our boss said that we need an observe and see what our salespeople say.”

They did not meet with customers and they weren’t making calls, but they were providing audits and stuff. I remember by day two, one of the young women who was working there. She never makes a sales call. She’d been with the company for less than a year. At a break, she comes in and says in a low voice to me, “I can do this as well as the sales guy.” There’s an essential human element if we can get it into a nice and tight conversation where it does get shared wide, both those who are customer-facing and people who are in the company that would love to tell their friends and their network value.

I love what you said there, which is if you’re recommending something to somebody and you want that recommendation to be strong, you customize it and not say what the story is or the show you’re recommending or the product but, “Why would I like it?” That’s the magic of storytelling that I love teaching people is, when you tell a story, then other people see themselves in that story, then they want to go on that journey with you. One of the things you talk about in The Science of Customer Connections is that business messaging sits on a three-legged stool. Would you quickly give us those three legs?

TSP Jim | Science Of Customer Connections

Science Of Customer Connections: Aligning marketing and sales to be able to have that better pitch, that better message, and accelerate sales is a big challenge.


Perfection is not the goal but being consistently good is the goal. You look at the psychology, practicality and organizations that I’ve observed, those who get this right, who have an everyday message that sets them apart and contributes to growth, managed to bring three elements in line. The first leg of the stool is the message. That’s where a lot of people think, “We need something snappy and clever. We’re going to go out and share our eleven-point mission statement or vision statement.” Those things are fine, but from the psychology and the practicality of it, it’s a lousy basis. It’s getting the message, words, questions, and stories that are worth sharing and that they’re memorable. The other two are the messengers. This is thinking through whether it’s a direct salesforce, a sales partner, or your service delivery maintenance team or people who don’t interact a whole lot with customers on the sales side, but they are messengers for your organization as a great place to work.

Everybody’s in sales, even if that’s not your title.

Everybody plays a role. The good news there is we’ve learned in the last decade very strongly. You don’t have to be extrovert. You don’t need to be a skilled communicator or have special training. Most of us are wired for good conversation if you can, as a leader, help feed that system. Give people the nuggets they can remember and share and acknowledgement of when they do it. The third leg of the stool is management habits. When you elevate your story, you get that message. How do you keep it fresh? How do you take that into the culture so that it’s coach too, it’s reinforced, you refresh those stories as you get new information, or as you have new conversations for both businesses? You can bring together message, messengers and management habits. In a consistent way, you will have cracked the code. You will be the one that stands out.

I like this concept of consistently good is the goal, not perfectionism. I talk about that all the time, letting go of perfectionism and celebrating progress is the focus of all of this. Starting with the first leg about messaging, that’s why storytelling and the story of origin is a great place to start because if everyone has a sense of the legacy, even if it’s your own one-person company, you still have a story there and you want everyone to be proud of sharing that story. The other thing that is fresh in your approach is this concept of, “It’s not one and done that we need to keep as a management habit, keep updating our stories and make sure they’re fresh and relevant.”

If you’re thinking about doing this for your own team and your own organization, I have guide to clients for the people, the messengers who you want to ultimately deliver this, involve them or at least some of them, representation of them in the creation of the message itself. When that happens, a couple of good things will resolve. First of all, you’ll get better stories. You’ll have access to more of those and the language of ways that will connect out into your audiences. The second is you’ll build momentum. You’ll build buy in, in the process of putting together a new message so that you’ll have a lot more adoption of it. People will get more excited about it and they’ll feel a sense of ownership. The message is fundamentally a lot of our identity. You talk about origin story and what we’re doing. Our professional identity is wrapped up in all of these things. We need to win hearts and minds inside the organization, as well as we try to win hearts and minds outside as well.

Kudos to you from coming up with an alliteration message, messengers, managing, and you did it again because nobody loves an alliteration more than I do. I have this whole one from going from invisible to irresistible. Let’s talk about what happens when it goes wrong. The first thing that can go wrong is this concept of crickets. We all know what crickets are like when you send a message out and nobody replies.

Every conversation is not some scripted robotic thing. It has to be based on empathy and understanding of the buyer situation. Click To Tweet

When the crickets are chirping, not much is happening. I think of that from my South Georgia upbringing in the summer evenings. You could hear the crickets chirping because nothing else is going on. You’re right about the alliteration. I don’t work out that way of symptoms of where you might have a problem in that three-legged stool.

You were saying if you’re getting crickets, the question to ask yourself is, “Are you encouraging people to share the message?” Sometimes we need that little extra nudge, don’t we?

If people don’t know what to say, or they think they’ll get asked a question, they don’t know the answer too, that’s uncomfortable if we won’t have the conversation.

I’ve seen this with law firms where they ask the lawyers in one practice area to tell their clients, “We have other practice areas we could help you.” They’re so resistant to doing it. The fear of rejection, the fear of, “What if they ask me a question about that practice area and I don’t know it.” This is important to realize that it’s not about perfection, then we go into the Cowboys or I always think, “So and so has gone rogue.” That’s what you mean by the cowboy.

Cowboys or cowgirls is when everyone’s doing their own thing. Another way of thinking about it at a new client a few years ago, as we were getting started on messaging projects said, “Around here, everyone rolls their own.” In the one hand, we liked the fact that, especially with professional salespeople, they are autonomous. They want to get out there. They want to do it their own way, but they tend to have their own stories, their approach, and their message.

The final C is the kiss of death, which is a commodity. Nobody wants to be seen as if you’re not saying anything that’s memorable. If you’re just pushing out a bunch of facts and figures, then clients hear bids in presentations and look at each other and go, “They all sound the same. We should go with the lowest price.”

TSP Jim | Science Of Customer Connections

Science Of Customer Connections: There is a charge that comes out of being able to find a message that is memorable, conversational, and inherently shareable.


Commodity is when in fact your message is differentiated. It’s easy to get into that because we tend to sound like everybody else in our industry. We get hung up in acronyms and stilted language and all that. You need the discipline to go through and be ruthless say, “Is this the way that human beings talk to one another and what they share here pass that standard?” It’s time to work on the message.

I find many people, even in an elevator pitch suddenly become robotic. I work with them and I said, “You’ve got to pretend like you’re having a drink with a friend at a bar and you don’t talk like that to your friends. Don’t talk like that to potential clients.” Everyone’s a human and your expertise I know is business to business process and it is human to human still.

You mentioned that I worked with a large martial arts organization. I’m not a martial artist myself. I get almost play one on TV, but I need a lot of digital magic for those moves. That’s one that’s business to family. Mostly their membership are kids who are learning those skills and adults as well. These principles, whether you think business-to-business or business-to-consumer or human-to-human, because essentially conversation is that. If there’s anything to takeaway from this is that managing the message as I call it is a very practical way of boiling down a big business problem and a big business opportunity. If you think about conversations, the ones that are most important for your business and reverse engineer those a bit. “Who’s going to be leading those conversations? What did they to know and believe and feel comfortable in? Are they well-equipped?” All of a sudden, things start making more sense. You get clarity about where to set your priorities.

Make people feel comfortable so they are confident to share your message. That’s a great note to end on. The book again is called The Science of Customer Connections. It’s on Amazon. Any last quick thoughts or quotes that you want to share or leave is with?

The overriding message is that your everyday business conversations are in fact, a manageable business issue. It is the way that most of us can grow and do it more quickly and more directly than almost anything else. We’re not talking here about changing your pricing, product, people, messing with the business model but simply, what comes out of people’s mouth? How do they talk about the business? You can make some big improvements in a fairly short order, just treat it as well.

Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s not that hard. Jim’s got the blueprint, check out his website, check out the book. Jim, thanks for being so generous with your content and the three Ms and the three Cs.

It has been a real pleasure. I look forward to chatting again soon.

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