Want an interesting sound experience? Open a tab on YouTube and find John Mellencamp’s R.O.C.K. in the USA. Next, open another one and find The Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black.

Now, play both at the same time.

Yes – it’s auditory chaos. A discordant, angry cacaphony of uptempo spirit and apocalyptic doom. The same effect I received last week when I sat in on a software webinar and listened while the presenter sang praises about his company and its products. Midway into his pitch, he popped up a slide showing his company’s subscriber growth and its enviable position in the Gartner quadrant’s coveted northeast corner.

Wonderful to be lauded by the best and brightest analysts. But what about customers? Alas, nary a mention or comment on the screen—or anywhere else in the colorful, well-organized PowerPoint deck. As he droned on with his gratuitous soliloquy, I couldn’t contain my curiosity. I minimized the webinar screen, and jumped into a search window. “[company name] reviews.” Enter!

Eighteen reviews on Yelp, with an average of 1.5 stars on a scale of five. Paint it black! Just three of the comments:

“If you think the customer service is bad just wait until you try to cancel.”
“I have a serious problem with the ethics of . . .”
“Terrible company that only seems to be getting worse.”

The marketer’s voice continued on as I scrolled through the recent customer vitriol to read some of the older entries. At that point, I wasn’t listening to his pitch, which grew less believable with every word.

Through the chat window, I shot a note to the moderator, asking if he or she knew about the recent negativity. “No,” came the response from an anonymous typist, followed by a promise to “check into it.” A blind-side tackle to a product-pitching ostrich! But let’s face it – the presenter’s situation was completely preventable had he not chosen to immerse his head in the sand. Did he forget how easy it was for anyone to discover a radically different truth? Marketing Rule #1: never ignore your situation.

Should this company have punted their webinar? Not necessarily. Not everyone checks online reviews, and to be fair, the presenter was a talented storyteller. But when your company is the sole protagonist, it arouses suspicion.

Marketing pitches and customer opinions are both influential in customer decision-making, so business developers must make sure each complements, or supports, the other.

1. Be situation-aware. Anytime you conduct an online or face-to-face presentation, know what your customers and prospects are likely to learn from your current clients, and expect it to happen simultaneously.

2. Acknowledge customer service issues, but always be prepared to share stories about how effectively you have resolved them. And if you don’t have stories, wait until you do, or resign yourself to the fact that people will bail out to catch up on email, never to return.

3. When you have positive customer reviews, make sure they’re included in the presentation. Good analyst reviews don’t hurt, but positive customer feedback is far more persuasive.

4. When you provide excellent service, ask your customers to share the experience through an online review.

In today’s collaborative, global, inter-connected, social media-fueled business world, the operatic product-pitching soloist now sounds hollow and tinny. Buyers expect harmony between company orchestra and customer choir. And when they’re not pleased with the sound, they won’t wait for intermission to head for the exit.