A Sales Rep, an Industry Expert, and a Presales Engineer walk into a bar

Without a customer.

Actually, it was a business room in corporate headquarters.  They talked shop.  They shared notes on the different accounts they were working and strategies they were undertaking.  Conversation went a million different directions, digging into this, digging into that, ranging far and wide with just a little bit of gossip.

They came out of the room with fresh insights on approaches high level and low, industry trends, competition, what the solutions could and couldn’t do, and overall enhanced their collective go to market.

It took two hours.

Talk shop once in a while.

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It’s time to start the play

You’ve got an audience’s attention, which is, when you think about it, a pretty good financial investment on their part.  Interested parties and decision makers have come together, on the phone or in person, to hear what you have to say.

You’ve got this audience’s attention, and they want you to talk about them.  More to the point, they came to see how your product can help with their business needs.

You’ve got your audience’s attention, and it’s important to set the context of the conversation by reviewing their challenges and how you’ll be resolving them.

You’ll start losing some of your audience’s attention as their cell phones start buzzing and important calls come in, but it’s important for them to know the background of your business and the amazing stories behind some of your reference customers and how successful they have been using your solution.

You’ve lost your audience’s attention because you took 27 minutes to start the play.

They came to see a play.  It’s okay to tell them what the play is about, but you’d better tell them when the play is going to start.

Oh, and start it quickly.

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Will the callers please identify themselves?

This day and age, when so much business communication is conducted by web-meeting and conference call, it can be difficult to know who is speaking.

No, the initial round of introductions on a call, typically performed by all on the customer side as quickly as possible so as to obscure themselves* and by all on the selling side as to impress and overwhelm the customer,** does not suffice.  A flight through fifteen names does not make anyone stand out.

Here’s a tip:

Throughout the call, when you feel compelled to speak, begin your portion with a simple “this is FirstName,” and then carry on with your question or comment.  It only takes a second, and now everyone on the call will know who is speaking.  After you’ve contributed two or three times the audience will know who you are and recognize your voice.  The other three or four active contributors to the call (the rest are happy to put themselves on mute and get some email done) will pick up on this trick. As a result, the key players will know who is speaking and some work will get done.

* “Otto Manfredjensenjen, IT Analyst.”
** “Hi, My name is Archie Leach, and I’m your Account Executive focused on our overlay solutions in the customer relationship space.  I’ve been working with BigVendorCo since 2004 and have covered many business disciplines and lines of business and am intrigued to learn more about yours.  Throughout the call today I’ll be making liberal use of the mute button, but forgetting whether it is toggled on or off, so if you hear me pouring coffee, playing with my dog in my home office, or sighing throughout the call.  Thanks!”
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Don’t Slow Down

Just pause.

When you listen to someone with a very thick accent, it can be difficult to understand what they’re saying.  But if you give your brain a second or two, it processes their meaning and feeds it to you.

Being a fast talker is like having a thick accent.

Whether you’re nervous, new, or just from a fast-paced region like New York, if you’re a fast-talker, you’ll risk losing your audience.  Eventually, you’ll be given well-intentioned advice to slow down.

Don’t slow down.  It’s unnatural for you and, frankly, really difficult to do for more than a sentence or two.  Then you’ll find yourself back to a hundred words a minute.

Just pause.

Present your ideas at your normal speaking pace, but pause between sentences to give your words time to sink in; time to let your audience’s brains process what you’re saying and catch up with you.

Then carry on.

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Overheard

We heard the following phrases in about a three minute span on a customer call this morning, as our Canadian customer described her business processes*

  • “Clickety-click, and Bob’s your uncle”
  • “So the girls downstairs can process the order”
  • Keying a test transaction into the system, she gave it the description POPOP, saying as she typed, “piece of piece of poo.”

You don’t find that kind of spunk too often!

*That’s a PROcess, not a PRAWcess
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Living the Dream

Please don’t say this.

While the intent of the phrase “I’m living the dream” is self-deprecating humor meant to carry the small talk until you get down to business, it comes across like you hate your job and would rather be doing anything other than what you’re doing at the moment.  At the moment you happen to be meeting with your customer.  Why would they want to work with someone who feels this way?

Instead say you’re doing great, and believe in that; or borrow from Dave Ramsey and say you’re doing better than you deserve, which is a stance of humility.

Either is better (and classier) than the equivalent of “it’s 5:30 somewhere!”

 

 

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Pause

You get a lot of content across in a presentation.  More than will ever be remembered by your audience.

That said, here’s a simple technique to ensure that they receive more of your message:

Pause.

The transition of an idea from your brain to your mouth is faster than your audience’s consumption of that idea from their ear to their brain because they have to digest it on the way in.  So make your point, explain your feature, describe the value, finish your sentence… and pause.

Count “three.. two… one…”* to yourself and then on to the next one.

It’s the tempo of your communication that draws them in.  A steady, clear beat provides open space for them to comprehend or ask for clarification, and then you can move on.

 

*That “three.. two… one…” goes faster than you think.  Maybe a full second.  If you make thirty major points over an hour, you’ve added half a minute to your presentation.  Don’t rush; you’ve got time.
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Plus or Minus Three Minutes

You are entirely within the realm of business etiquette if you arrive to a conference call three minutes late.  You can, in fact, strategically arrive at three minutes past, just as the call really gets started.

But if you’re there three minutes early…

You’ll get the chance to talk with the host of the call one on one.  You’ll meet the other people who are ready to get something done. You’ll get to create, renew and enhance relationships with peers and customers in an informal, friendly atmosphere.

Show up a little early.

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Eventually…

If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms multiple times in a sales cycle.

If you stick around longer, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms in a different sales cycle with a different sales team.

When you’re a grizzled veteran, you’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but with different customer contacts and a different sales team.

Eventually…

You’ll find yourself visiting the same customer in the same meeting rooms, but this time you’ll be with a different vendor, selling the replacement to the solution you sold them a decade ago when the world was young and a quart of milk was still a quarter.

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Destination Unknown

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s perfectly find to meander. You just might stumble upon your destination.

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