August 30, 2011

Your audience has simple requests: Can you fulfill them?

You have a new business. Your product is chocolate-chip cookies. You think your cookies are fabulous and one-of-a-kind, and you contact potential stores to let them know about your product. They tell you, "When you're ready to bring your cookies to market, get in touch so we can sit down and try them."

Now you're ready to launch. You show up at one of the stores unannounced, track down the buyer and say, "So when are you going to buy my cookies?"

The buyer responds, "Have you sent me samples?"

You say, "No, but they're really good and I know they'll sell in your store. Just let me know when I should deliver some to you."

The buyer hands you her card and says, "When you're ready, call me to make an appointment so we can sit down with samples and pricing information."

Disappointed at the cool response to your amazing product, you agree.

Maybe you, dear reader, are not selling cookies, but as a speaker, you are in sales. You're selling an idea, a cause, a project, a product, a service, a lifestyle. We're all selling -- persuading and motivating audiences to do what we want. However, the audience only does what we want when we give them what they want. It's not a one-way street, and it's not about how fabulous your topic is or how it will change people's lives if they just listen to you.

What did this salesperson do wrong? He didn't listen to his audience.

His audience (the buyer, and by extension, the potential customer) said, "Make an appointment." Yet the salesperson failed to make an appointment. The buyer is busy; she can't just stop what she's doing when you show up, no matter how great your cookies are.

The buyer said, "Let me try your product before I decide to bring it into my store." The salesperson failed to let the buyer sample the product. How does the buyer know if her customers will want your product? She's the expert. Let her taste the product and look at the ingredients, price point and packaging and make the decision whether it will truly be successful on her shelves.

In fact, the buyer had very minimal requests that should have been extremely easy to fulfill. Your audiences are not even close to being this easy to please.

And yet, two simple requests were ignored, and the cookie manufacturer rebuffed. Now, maybe next time the cookie maker will make an appointment and bring samples. But his reputation is already tarnished. The buyer already considers him problematic and is less interested in his company than another cookie company that follows the standard rules of engagement.

What requests might your audience have of you?

1. Start on time (that means not rewarding latecomers by waiting for them).

2. Come prepared, having practiced, with your notes, your props, your visuals and your business cards.

3. Understand your technology so 15 minutes of the presentation isn't wasted trying to figure out why your slides aren't showing up.

4. Understand me, your audience member, so my time isn't wasted listening to content that doesn't apply to my work or my life.

5. Involve me, your audience member, so I don't make the decision to check e-mail (or nap) instead.

6. Be real and connect; don't be a slick, memorized suit who I can't differentiate from the last guy I heard speak.

7. End on time, maybe even a little early.

8. Stick around for a few minutes, in case I have questions or comments that didn't make it into Q&A.

9. If I asked a question you couldn't answer, follow up. If I gave you permission, add me to your e-mail list. Find a way to stay in touch with me so I don't forget you.

These are just a few of my requests as an audience member, and different audiences have different requests. Are you really going to overlook or ignore my requests because you think your message is so fantastic that it will overrule my objections?

Humble yourself. Find out what your audience wants, needs and cares about. Give them what they want, and they might give you what you want. Ignore their requests and you most certainly will not get what you want.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

AmethystMahoney said...

Great post! I've actually heard this told as, "What if I don't like chocolate chip cookies?" :-)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Wait, someone else has used this analogy? Because this was actually inspired by a real situation my husband was in as a buyer for a specialty foods store and a vendor who kept pestering him.

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