Marketers and sales professionals spend a lot of time, energy and money on getting people’s attention, but what truly counts are the actions that people take once they get those messages.
My business partner and close friend, INXPO co-founder Malcolm Lotzof, likes to say that “Every business presentation, going back to the dawn of civilization, is ultimately about changing someone’s mind.” He’s right, of course. If you’re selling, I don’t know, let’s say oranges — you want your customer to buy yours, even if the guy a few stalls down has a nice-looking bushel of them too. Maybe your customer didn’t think he was ready to buy oranges. Or maybe he had his eye on your competitor’s. Either way, you need to first get that customer’s attention and deliver a message that will change his mind. What happens next in that sequence is what really matters. Let’s look at the business communication process a little closer.
The hardest part often is the first: getting a person’s attention. Recently I had an unusual experience that stopped me in my tracks. I was golfing with some friends in Florida when a bald eagle landed on the course, with a fish in its talons. To see such a majestic creature unexpectedly was amazing. To be sure, the eagle was far less impressed with me and my playing partners – I’m not even sure he paid us any attention — but our round came to a halt. We just stood there and watched him. The eagle eventually flew off with his lunch and we resumed golfing, but the point was made: in our busy world, it sometimes takes something out of the ordinary to grab our attention.
Standing out in a crowd or getting noticed amid all the other stuff competing for our attention today is not easy to do. The second part of the sequence is delivering a compelling message. There is a golden opportunity once you are able to capture someone’s attention, so you better take advantage of it. An unclear or ambiguous message is not going to get it done. You need to deliver a clear message that gets right to the point. Whether you’re addressing a single consumer, an entire market or only your employees, your message needs to be clear and convincing to achieve the desired effect.
This brings us to the third part of the sequence. It’s the moment of truth: now that they’ve heard your message, what action will your audience take? The real goal of any business communication is to inspire action. Launching a new product? The desired action is that customers buy it. Outlining a new corporate strategy? Then you want employees to understand, support and execute it. Introducing training and development courses? You want your employees to commit to improving their skills and knowledge. The list of examples can go on and on. What a lot of people may not realize is their message helps listeners make up their minds about which actions to take.
How do you get people to take the right next step, after hearing your message? I’ve had lots of interesting meetings throughout my sales career. Sometimes a client moves quickly from hearing the message to taking action; at other times, it takes a lot longer. But there is always a moment where it’s as though a light-bulb turns on, the idea behind the message is understood and a deal is struck.
To get people to take that next step, hone your message. Deliver it clearly and with passion. Help your audience turn on that proverbial light-bulb and illuminate their own path forward.