When engaging in conversations that are meant to be persuasive or to influence your listener’s actions (for example, a sales pitch, an email campaign, or a call to action), your goal should be that your listener both receives and retains your message. The first step in achieving this is to tell them what they need or want to hear, not simply what you want to say. This is also true, and fundamentally more urgent, in a crisis communications situation. It’s human nature to more effectively receive information that is relevant and timely to us.
How many times have you been at an event listening to a speaker who droned on and on about themselves, their accomplishments or their industry expertise? Many, for sure! What do we do when that happens? Almost universally, we tune out. Our thoughts turn to other matters, or we may even check messages on our phones if we can do so without being noticed. What if that speaker began their presentation by addressing a challenge you’re having or an issue you cared about deeply? The listening experience would have been quite different.
People want to feel that they matter. When you start a conversation or write the first sentence of a marketing message in a way that acknowledges the space they’re in, you are far more likely to hold their attention and grow the relationship.
So how do you do this? Knowing a bit about your listener first is key. Active listening is also crucial. Ask questions designed to elicit critical details. In a sales or influence environment, you may start by probing what types of challenges your listener faces in achieving their business goals. Expand your understanding by asking how that challenge, or set of challenges, impacts their daily processes. Using phrases such as “tell me more” and “how does that affect you” invite your listener to share important details that you can use to craft your response – a response that should be helpful and informative. These steps form the foundation of establishing yourself as a resource to your listener. He or she is much more likely to continue the conversation or engagement if you present yourself as helpful and oriented to problem solving.
Before engaging with someone either in person or electronically, ask yourself what matters to them. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Then, communicate a message that’s meaningful to them and provides new knowledge or assistance. It takes slightly more effort on your part on the front end of the process, but the outcome can be a new client, mutually beneficial relationship, or friendship, and don’t we all want more of those?