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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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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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For Example…

When multi-channel data enters the system through the Context Adapter, it can either go through the Data Processing Layer, the Context Service, or the Event Stream Processor.

Depending on which entry path is taken, the data might pass through the Dispatcher and Message Bus, or possibly the Context Gateways and Enrichment Services, ultimately residing in the Core Customer Profile,* which you might then leverage through the Analytics Layer or, really the point of the whole exercise, through the Consumption Layer.

For example…

Mr. Customer, when Sue your consumer sends out a tweet referencing your brand with a few not-so-polite hash-tags, we can capture that tweet, its context, and determine its negative sentiment.  Isn’t that an important insight?

When we start to match up Sue’s Twitter handle with other hints and clues and customer data we’ve gathered through other channels like your web store and her order, we can put two and two together and realize the product was likely damaged in shipping.  Now wouldn’t Sue love to hear from you to rectify the situation?  Wouldn’t her next tweet be in praise of your brand?  Isn’t that the kinds of customer service that will differentiate you from your competition?

Both of these sections tell the same story.

If you’ve got an amazing innovation that took a few ingenious and technological leaps and bounds to create, you’d better give your audience a few examples of how it all works.  They simply haven’t caught up with you yet.  Telling Sue’s story helps your audience realize that there’s a missing piece.  They’ll suddenly know what a Context Gateway is and why they want one.

 

*Only after passing through the Secure Access Layer, naturally.

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Reversing the direction of What, How, and Why

Surely you’ve run across a messaging structure that helps boil down everything you have to get across into simple steps.  These frameworks are easy to use and help you think while reducing the time and effort required to prepare a customer presentation.  Let’s look at two of them:

Is-Does-Means

If you have a module or a feature, you can quickly and clearly get across what it is, what it does, and then close the point with what that means to your audience, e.g. “my mobile phone is a small, battery-powered mobile device which helps me do email, messaging, and phone calls, which means I can stay in touch with family, friends, and business partners wherever I am.”

What-How-Why

As you prepare your solution and how it specifically applies to your customer, you might find it helpful to write the words What, How and Why on separate pieces of paper and brainstorm through a mind-mapping exercise.  You’ll come out with something like “our product is a call center (what), it handles inbound and outbound communications and manages tickets through to resolution (how), so that you can better serve your customers (why).”

The direction of these structures is from your product to the benefits they provide the customer.  What happens if we play these in reverse?

If you want to stay in touch with your family, friends, and business partners no matter where you are, it would be helpful to have a single device that can help you do emailing, messaging and phone calls, like a mobile phone!”

If you want to serve your customers better, you’ll need to handle inbound and outbound communications and tickets through to resolution.  Our call center product…”

If you want to grab your audience’s attention, start with the value to them, progress through what they’d logically need to accomplish that value, and conclude with your product as the solution.

The Whys and Means will usually jump out at you during discovery.  Flag them.  When you craft your messaging, simply collate and prioritize them.

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Let the Customer Open

Surely in your qualification and discovery conversations* you’ve covered the basic purpose of your planned meeting: who will be in the audience, what their expectations are, and an agreed upon agenda.

But when it comes to the meeting itself, have your host open the meeting and lay these details out for agreement.  In this way, the meeting is by the customer, for the customer, and about the customer, rather than by, for, and about you and your products and services.  If there’s disagreement or there are political struggles going on, the audience members can resolve these things themselves without you having to defend.

The stage is now set on their terms. Your presence is to help them in their decision-making processes.

Now you can begin to share why you’re there to show, how you’re going to do that, and what you want them to take away.**

*No, “just give them the standard overview” is not a qualified discovery
** Which is, by the way, a fantastic three step introduction framework.  Quick, to the point.  On with the show!
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Five Minute Demo

From way outside the enterprise software space, here is a pair of demonstrations we can learn from.

I would buy this product based on this fundamentally sound,* informative, and compelling demonstration:**

Let’s dissect it just a little:

  • A quick “hello, here’s what we’re going to be talking about”
  • Brief demo on his own terms of the product to give us a taste
  • Educational review of the major features, and what it does
  • Deeper demo showing the real use cases we care about and the resulting variety and power of the product we care about
  • Brief summary, praise, and call to action

There was joy and enthusiasm on the part of the presenter from the opening seconds, and he showed us enough to let our imaginations fill in the rest.  Wouldn’t you love to be able to coax your own sounds out of this unit?  Don’t you want to discover what else it can do?


I wouldn’t buy this product based on this rambling checklist:***

Let’s rip it apart:

  • Hello, here’s what we’re going to talk about
  • Tangential, distracting story
  • Long technical feature-function training course
  • More features and functions
  • Even more features and functions
  • Ineffective and out of place cross-selling pitch
  • Finally, demo!  …Well, ten seconds of demo, then back to the training class and another cross-selling pitch
  • Ten seconds of demo, thirty seconds of explanation; repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Thanks for watching, for more information go to the website

There was no joy on the part of the presenter.  Does he even like playing guitar?  Nothing was left to the imagination, no stone left unturned, and you walk away thinking “that’s all it does.”

* Sure, it could have used a little more editing and another draft.
** I did, actually.
*** From the manufacturer’s rep!
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Self-Justified Perception

Anyone who has been witness to a political argument will recognize the mental contortions and logical leaps the participants will put themselves through to justify their initial position.  Each starts with their end in mind and the debate is merely flogging a dead horse, more entertaining than useful for the witnessing crowd.  Minds are rarely changed.

What is the perception your customer has of your business, your solutions, your position in the marketplace?* What end will they justify throughout your presentation?

If it’s positive, then your job is simply to reinforce.  If you don’t stray too far on your walk through the woods, the customer will see the path for themselves, even through incomplete messages and proof-points.  They’ll fill in the gaps to justify their perception.

If it’s negative, then heaven help you.  You have to change perception and overcome every spike of doubt that enters your audience’s mind.  No amazing features or functions will overcome that bias.  They’ll fill in the gaps to justify their perception.

So you have to set the perception first.  You have to tell a better story than they’ve told themselves, a better story than the competition has told them.  Your audience has to be onboard with your premise before you begin to show the clicks, screens and apps which will solve their problem.

How?  Here are some positioning approaches:

  • Start talking about your current customers.  Find the stories.
  • Empathy and listening to the customer’s problem can be the difference-maker.  Genuine problem solving might be best when the customer’s choice is between you and doing nothing.
  • Show the long term versus the short term, expanding
  • Don’t start with “well, you probably think we’re…” as that will simply remind, reinforce, and solidify their perception
  • “Nobody ever got fired for choosing Big Blue…” if you’ve got the reputation, flaunt it
  • Grab onto the tail of the comet / Elevator is at the ground floor / Be a superstar
  • Platform, platform, platform.  The technology world is always changing.  Your platform is the basis for the next big thing.

Good luck; you have minds to change.

* More importantly, what is your perception of your business, your products, your position in the marketplace?
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Communication, understanding, problem-solving, relationship-building

When you get your hair cut, there’s usually a big mess on the floor when you’re done.  The same applies when you’re solving business problems with customers:

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Inner Monologue

Experience has taught me to listen to my experience.

When faced with different situations, my inner monologue* kicks in and starts feeding me nuggets of advice:

  • You’ve done this before
  • Don’t stress- you can’t know what’s going to happen in this meeting
  • Trust in your teammates in the room
  • Qualify that question, don’t answer it right away
  • Pounce! Now!  Close it!
  • Step in and save this
  • You know more about this one than they do
  • They know more about this one than you do
  • I never thought of it that way
  • It’s okay to be wrong on this one
  • You’re giving them a lot of information, building on credibility
  • It’s not about you

Listen to the advice your inner monologue feeds you.  You’ve spent years developing it.

*It’s not a dialogue- I don’t converse with it, I listen to it.

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