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Know Your Audience

Know Your Audience

Before I begin, let’s make something clear: many people don’t like to consider themselves a salesperson but let’s be honest, if you are a Consultant of any kind, you are selling your skills and expertise. You are trying to convince your client to take action based your advice. If you are a Representative of any kind, for any company, you are selling your audience or clients on why they should be using your brand or services. Make no mistake about it, that is a form of sales. It doesn’t mean that sales is a bad thing. That’s how the business world works.

I have been in sales and dealing face to face with clients for over 12 years and it still amazes me today how many salespeople or presenters do not understand the concept of “Know Your Audience.”

Reflecting back to my days at NAIT when I was attending school for Business, I can recall one of the greatest presentations I gave of my school career. It was for a Banking course in Finance and the instructor told us that we were to do a presentation in front of the class based on a topic that she would assign each group.

In every class, you’ve probably witnessed or noticed how there’s always a genius or someone known as ‘the smart guy’ or the ‘keener’. And whenever there was a group project to do, you knew that by being on his or her team, your grade for the project would have a high probability of ending up in the 90% and up range. So the smart thing to do would be to somehow ease your way into his or her group. Admit it! You’ve done this before, or at least thought of it!

On this particular day at NAIT when the instructor told us to take 5 minutes to assemble our own team, I sat back and waited for the groups to assemble and thought I would then ask one of the groups if I could join them.

It was very interesting to see how many people immediately flocked to ‘the smart guy,’ who I’ll identify as John. Quite quickly, the groups were assembled and I was still in my seat with no group. A few seats over, there was a girl who was in the same situation. I politely asked her if she wanted to be my project partner and she agreed.

Our topic of discussion was “Bank Fees Are Excessive.”

I find that when doing public speaking, illustrating something by hand tends to have more audience engagement as they are interested in the point you are trying to make, so they follow along to see what that is.

Typically for a presentation, most people would be using PowerPoint slides. For our presentation, I knew going in that I did not want to use PowerPoint, but rather illustrate, by hand, on an overhead projector, our argument that bank fees were excessive. I find that when doing public speaking, illustrating something by hand tends to have more audience engagement as they are interested in the point you are trying to make, so they follow along to see what that is. While doing the presentation, I made sure that I was speaking with a good pace, that I was making eye contact and making sure that my classmates were actually paying attention.

I was very interested in how John’s group would present their topic. There were about 5 of them in the group in total and they had this amazing, graphic based, and bullet point based PowerPoint presentation. While the content of the presentation was very informative, it was down-right dry. John was not a very good public speaker and spoke with a monotone voice when going over the bullet points and the rest of his team were following suit.

The next day when we received our grades back for the presentations, my partner and I were very pleased to learn that we got 96%! Remember that this is a team that used an oldschool overhead projector with a marker to illustrate their argument. When John’s group got back their grade, the whole team looked quite disappointed and I heard one of the members say “Why the heck did we get 67%??”

Here’s why: as I had mentioned, while John’s presentation had amazing graphics to illustrate facts, figures, and content, their PowerPoint presentation was riddled with too many bullet points and the whole team felt that providing as much information as possible would result in an amazing presentation. In my experience, if you begin to lose your audience and aren’t even aware of it, then the presentation is pretty much over.

My team, on the other hand, focused on toning down the verbiage to make it relatable to other students, speaking in different tones, and on the occasion, crack a joke. We made our hand drawn illustrations easy to understand, which made it easier for our audience to follow the point we were trying to make.

A great public speaker or salesperson knows how to change their verbiage or pace on the fly to match their audience. They know that it’s about making the conversation or message more meaningful, engaging, and relatable to their audience. One quick example of doing this wrong is imagine you are a technician for a computer repair company and your client has asked you to repair their computer. We can assume that you are a technical type of person, but that doesn’t mean your client is. When your client asks you what the problem is and what the solution would be, why would it make sense for you to spew out a bunch of large computer terminology that your client can’t possibly follow or understand? Wouldn’t it make sense to tone down the verbiage a notch and show them step by step what the issue is and what the components you’re talking about actually do, and what the fix will do?

A great public speaker or salesperson knows how to change their verbiage or pace on the fly to match their audience. They know that it’s about making the conversation or message more meaningful, engaging, and relatable to their audience.

How many times have you gone to any bank and met with an advisor and they begin the conversation with the credentials speech? “I have a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, a Mutual Funds license, I’m a Certified Financial Planner…etc. etc.” Sometimes I want to say, “Stop. What you really mean to tell me is that you have a PhD in Boring Me.” I recently met with a Wealth Management and Financial Services professional, named Kelsey Watt, that truly understands that this is not the correct approach when meeting with clients. She has a large portfolio of clients and awards that serve as proof that she knows how to communicate with her clients the right way, from the beginning.

The truth is your customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

The truth is your customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. What this means is that before you begin to gloat about your credentials, take the time to get to know them. Find out why they are wanting to meet with you and how you can help them. In order words, take the time to qualify your customer’s needs, discuss what the next steps would be, and when presenting the solution, remember to speak on a level that they can understand. Obviously as your clients, they don’t know as much about the subject as you, otherwise they would have done the solution themselves. As a professional, you have to respect that and let your clients know that you’re not there to just sell them on a quick fix, but to discuss a total solution. In other words, your business strives to provide a total solution based approach, versus a transaction based approach.

By doing all of these things, you can understand that it is very important to know your audience so that your message is delivered in a meaningful, engaging, and relatable way. This will help you get the sale, get referrals, and have loyal customers.

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