We’ve been busy preparing for our Breakthrough Conference in Charlotte, working on keynotes, topics, and materials that would help leaders to break through to a great 2018. So it was no surprise that my mind drifted to reliving lessons learned the hard way - and successes - in delivering a message. Having experience with sales, webinars, classroom facilitation, workshops, and keynotes, I first want to share that each is different in unique ways. However, there are consistent approaches and best practices for each that will help you to be heard above a noisy world of communication. I shared best approaches in previous blogs like 6 Keys to Save Communication Time, Stand Up, Speak Up, and Shut Up, and my 3-Step Process to a Great Standup.
My focus in this blog has to do with being stuck in your message. Whether you're a salesperson, a marketer, a consultant, or a training professional who needs to effectively engage an audience, you can improve by asking yourself what do you want your audience to think, say, or do differently? What action do you want them to take?
Your goal in communication is the pivot point between doing one of these three things and … nothing. You want your audience to think, say, or do something different that they aren’t doing now. They are a body at rest, and Newton tells us that they will remain that way unless acted upon. They would rather stick with what they are already doing rather than make the change - which is probably true of us all.
Mark Lindwall blogs that Forrester Research recently asked 180 IT salespeople with greater than three years of experience this question: “Thinking about the opportunities you’ve lost in the last 12 months, what is the most common reason for the loss?” The response was that in 43% of losses were due to “Lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.” You read that right, the audience did nothing. They got stuck.
So the question I ask is why? Why does this happen in any professional communication arena? Why can't anyone that is passionate about what they are doing and who fully believes in their product or service move their audience to action? My experience leads me to conclude there are three reasons that cause this decision inertia:
- Wrong context. This indicates a failure to sell the problem or sell the opportunity.
- Not communicating value. Not communicating the value of doing something versus nothing.
- Lack of communicator confidence. Not communicating your most positive presence.
These are the big challenges I’ve seen when one is attempting to get others to make a commitment or decision, that is, doing something rather than nothing. Let me expand on each of the above questions:
If your company has a 3-part sales timeline, and you’ve failed to determine where you are in the process, you will be selling from the wrong context. Over the years, I’ve shared my observation that people do things for only two reasons. One is for personal gain, and the second, to avoid pain. Many communicators use neither in sharing their message, good communicators share the gain, and the most effective communicators add a sharp focus on the pain.
One way to overcome this wrong context challenge is to hitch before you pitch. That simply means to make sure that you “hitch” your message to their pain (and gain) before you make your “pitch” to think, say, or do something different. Hitch only to things that the other person actually cares about and consider these categories as a guide to help your thinking:
Rational: Individually help me do my work
Organizationally meet our functional needs
Emotional: Individually make me look and/or feel good
Organizationally build or protect our brand or reputation
Now, think about the situation your listeners face, any complication they encounter, and the implication for them personally or business wise. Hitch your message to a situation or challenge that is top of mind for your audience. Insert a perspective that clearly articulates the complication or challenge. Finally, express your concern about the implication on the listener (or business). This gives listeners a framework to better think and decide. It’s a simple approach that removes complication to move forward.
Not Communicating the Value:
Attempting to get your audience to do something as opposed to nothing requires a comparison and contrast. You’ll need to compare your proposal against the status quo. Listeners need to know the value of doing what you ask weighed against current results. Consider ways to open their eyes and their mind, to help them catch themselves considering new possibilities, and to shift their perspective from now (short term) to ROI (long term).
Lack of Communicator Confidence:
Putting things in the right context and communicating the value will help build confidence. However, completing both well while delivering your message with little (or no) confidence, is the fast way to failure. You communicate a positive presence through what you say and HOW you say it. At this point, your singular focus is not on the message, but on how to say it. To that end, focus on one technique. Pause.
Of all the above ideas to get your message moving, this seems simplistic, but I’ve watched people for years struggle in the use. My personal experience is that it’s hard to execute. Your message is sent when talking, yet true understanding happens in the silence. Pause. Rather than talking faster or sharing more information when nervous, practice pausing. Just stop, wait, and see if your audience has any comments. It’s OK whether they do or not because you’ll know that they are processing your message. Your audience must process in order to get moving.
Following the above suggestions to overcome stuck decisions will force you to complete the thinking necessary for your message to be heard in a noisy world. You can do it in 2 minutes or less. Think through the above, go to your main ideas and supporting information and benefit. Pause to emphasize your points, and, to wait for decisions to be made. By following this blueprint, you’ll get your message moving.
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