Tag Archives: Audience

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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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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Save the Day

Often, too often, the agenda is not clear, the audience is not understood, and the purpose of the meeting hasn’t been communicated.

As Pre-Sales it is our responsibility and delight to save the day:

  • Determine what the audience is there to learn
  • Volunteer to take over
  • Grab their attention and bring them value.
  • Be brilliant and brief

Look at that.  You’ve been memorable.

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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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“Next Slide, Bill”

I don’t care if you’re the CEO of Wal-Mart, the President of the United States, the Pope, or the Global V.P. of Self Importance.

Never,

never,

never,

never,

never,

ever

have someone else click and advance your slides for you.  It is insulting and condescending to your audience.

And it’s unprofessional.

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Stand Up

A few months ago I found myself putting in a lot of windshield time getting from one customer engagement to another.  Lacking scheduled conference calls and a little bored with the radio, I wondered… “Can I punch ‘Bill Cosby’ into Pandora?”

Why yes, I could!

Spend some time listening to stand up comedians. Their livelihood depends on their skills for storytelling, use of humor (obviously), writing and preparation, and, perhaps most important, their sense of timing.* So do ours.  The more you listen, the more you’ll be able to pick out the good from the mediocre; the crafted message from the cheap laugh, and the writing conventions they use to expand on a topic, move from one to the next, and touch back to a point or theme introduced earlier in the act.  Dylan Brody is an excellent example as a “purveyor of fine words and phrases.”

 *The Smothers Brothers are masters of timing, from the pregnant pause to the unexpected interjection.  Dick’s ‘little brother’ Tommy is the devilish mastermind of the duo.  From interviews I’ve seen, he intentionally pulls his brother’s strings on stage, which makes the experience all the more genuine.
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Overheard

Imagine the following phrases uttered in a customer engagement:

“Most companies I see…”

“Jump in! This is for you!”

(While snapping fingers) “Very, very quick.”

“Everyone loves the mobility.  It’s fantastic.”

Customer: “Our biggest issue has always been data gathering.”  Response, without missing a beat, “Well, let’s talk about that then.”

“This is something new and cool.”

“When our customers have needs, we move quickly.”

“I want to tell you a secret.  Can I tell you a secret?”

When you get the opportunity to watch a peer present, take it.  And take notes.  All of these gems* were dug up in a single morning’s demo.

*Regardless of solution-space or industry, phrases like this are examples of the highest level of professionalism in any demonstration of technology.  What customer (or sales rep, our other audience) wouldn’t be thrilled to conduct a conversation in this manner?
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Second Person Narrative

You arrive at the customer site twenty minutes early.  Your sales rep and your client chat about the meeting ahead as you set up.  But something’s wrong. You can’t get onto the network, the projector isn’t cooperating with your tablet, and your sales rep starts talking about areas of the solution you aren’t prepared to cover.

I arrive at the customer site twenty minutes early.  My sales rep and my client chat about the meeting ahead as I set up.  But something’s wrong. I can’t get onto the network, the projector isn’t cooperating with my tablet, and my sales rep starts talking about areas of the solution I’m not prepared to cover.

Much is said about “I-talk” and “you-talk,” the idea that you should phrase your demo clicks in the first person or the second person.

Which of the two examples above had you more involved?  When it was happening to you* or when it was happening to me?  If you want to better involve your customers in your presentations, go with your gut.

* I was delighted to realize, upon review, that most of my posts here are in the second person narrative.
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Sparring

If your customer says something you disagree with, and you have valid arguments, then challenge them.

Not their authority, not their past decisions, not their role in the decision, no.  But their preconceptions, their misunderstandings, and their prejudices are fair game.

Give them a mental challenge.  Spar with them.

You’re an expert in your domain, and they’re an expert in theirs.  You’re at par.  But you probably know more about their domain than they do about yours.  Advantage you.

You’re asking them to make a huge investment and business decision.  Let them know what you’re made of.  Take a punch and punch back.  They’ll respect you for it.

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Consider the comfort of your passengers

When I was first learning to drive, my mother advised me to consider the comfort of my passengers as I sped up, slowed down, and took the corners.

The same applies to presentations and software demonstrations:

  • “Can everyone hear me okay?”
  • If online, “I want to make sure I’m sharing my computer full screen.”
  • Set your screen resolutions low, to 1024×768.  It seems odd to go low resolution in a world of 24 inch monitors and hi-definition projectors, but your software has to look big, bold, and simple.  Showing all fifty fields doesn’t gain you any credibility.
  • Pay special attention to your mouse, moving it slowly and with purpose.  Drag it in a straight line,  very slowly circling key areas you want to highlight.  Let your pointer sit if it has nothing to do.  Don’t talk with your mouse the same way you talk with your hands.  No shakes, no jumps, no bruises.

No-one should spill their coffee when you’re behind the wheel.  They’re out for a scenic drive, so be their chauffeur through your solutions.

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