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Sales Solutions
Know Your Audience And How Doing So Can Improve Your Success vol 4, issue #9
September, 2007

Do you ever get the feeling that you're speaking one language, while some of the people you're addressing understand another? Do you ever wonder why that diagram you spent two hours creating is being met with more than a couple of blank stares? Do you sometimes question whether you're all on the same page - or even reading from the same book? If so, you're not alone.

Communication is a two-way street (well, the most effective communication is, anyway). Unfortunately, it's not a street many of us navigate as well as we could. In any in-person or phone communication, we play two roles - the speaker/presenter, and the listener. Listening is an important skill in sales - one we discussed in a previous tip - and if not performed well can cost you sales. Speaking and presenting are also communications skills that can work for you, or against you, depending on how well you perform them. Sales people who are the most successful presenters are those who have mastered the art of speaking and communicating with the different types of people they encounter in meetings. Unfortunately, too many of us haven't. We fail to take into account style, temperament, personality, and preferred learning methods, and treat everyone as if they were the same. We say the same thing, the same way, at the same pace - regardless of whom we're speaking to. And then we're surprised when these same things don't connect with the different personalities of the people we're communicating with.

So let's try something different.

In sales, it often helps to be a chameleon. Chameleons, as most of us know, are known to change the color of their skin (though not, as is popularly believed, on demand). Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that you whip off that red tie and throw on a blue one midway through your presentation. But I am suggesting that by paying attention and adapting to the behaviors of the members of the audience you're presenting to (whether it's one person or ten) you'll have a better chance of connecting, gaining agreement, and closing business.

For example, you're introducing an aspect of your offering that only a techno-geek would understand, to a 60-year old executive who's already mentioned that his grandkids run circles around him on the computer (and that that's not terribly hard to do). Try presenting it in a way that this obvious technophobe will understand, without coming across as talking down to him. "This is a somewhat technical concept - often only the computer whizzes in the audience get it. So let's discuss in plain English what this is and why it's important."

Or when you perceive that a person in the meeting likes directness (and, by extension, considers indirectness in a sales person to be evasiveness), don't beat around the bush when she asks you a question. Just answer it. Directly.

And if you've been coached in advance that a key person at the meeting needs to see things - charts, diagrams, images - please don't ramble on about the features and benefits of your offering. Make sure this person - and others like him - gets a chance to see the features and supporting visuals that provide the benefits your product offers.

Action Item:

Prior to your next meeting, find out what you can from your coach (if you've established one) about the style, temperament, personality, and preferred learning methods of each of the attendees. Then develop your presentation and prepare yourself to engage each of these people in the way most conducive to each. Throughout the meeting, be aware of the fewer blank stares, and greater number of heads nodding in agreement, as each person feels that you're speaking to him or her personally.

Good Selling!

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