We are all selling our ideas to others, all the time. In meetings, whether formal or informal, we are trying to get support for our plans and dreams, and at times, the stakes are monumentally high.
It’s on this note that The Compelling Communicator starts. If you don’t believe that, then stop reading here.
If you don’t acknowledge that we’re all always in sales, close the tab and read something else.
For those that are still with me, the reason that Tim Pollard wrote The Compelling Communicator is to give you a system to communicate well. If you adopt the principles in The Compelling Communicator, you’ll cut the cruft and craft communication that motivates people towards the actions you want them to take.
In this book, I’m going to lay out a systematic process for creating compelling communication on a consistent and scalable basis that can be applied in any communications setting.
You may look at the title and think that it’s only for speakers or people that give presentations regularly, but you’d be wrong. The basic formula Pollard provides is the one I’ve used in my proposals to win 90% or more of the ones I send.
It’s the same basic formula you use to write a good sales page.
When he talks about densely packed slide decks, it’s the same problem I see in proposals all the time. You include company history and team profiles because you’re hoping something makes the prospect interested in working with you.
Firehosing can be defined as “utterly overwhelming the audience with a gross excess of material,” and there is no more hated mistake in the world of communication.
Firehosing, as Pollard calls it, shows your prospect’s that you couldn’t do them the service of drilling down into their real problem. You’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
The opposite of firehosing is Pollard’s big rule of communication.
The Big Rule of Communication
Powerfully land a small number of big ideas
If there is one takeaway from Pollard, it should be this. You have a limited amount of attention from people. Don’t waste your time on all the little things that are obvious.
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Only spend time trying to land the big ideas that you want to convey.
Only spend time getting your prospect to take the action you want.
The company history is wasted time in your proposal.
People buy a solution to their problem
The presentation must be anchored in your audience’s problem, so we need to open with the one thing most likely to secure both the audience’s attention and their commitment to the rest of the conversation. That thing is them, and more specifically, the problem they have that your solving.
No one will purchase from you because of your company history. They don’t care. They only care that you can bring value to their business by solving problems they’re having.
That means you need to do two things right away in any communication.
Sell people on their problem. Dig in deep to their issues and explore them from a few different angles. Dwell in their problem and explain the pain they feel in it.
You should be able to explain the problem that you’re clients are having better than they can. If you can’t do that, then you’re not ready to send them anything.
Once you’ve sold them on their problem, it’s time to tell them about their brighter future. What will the business they built look like after the action you want your prospect to take?
How will they achieve the goals they’ve always dreamt of?
These are the same two steps I tell everyone to start their proposals with, and Pollard instructs us to open our presentations the same way.
Once you’ve hooked them with your understanding of their problem and sold them on the brighter future, they’re ready to invest in the time to listen to you.
They do this because they understand that listening to you will benefit them. Because purchasing from you will get them that brighter future.
Their desire to solve the problem is the reason why they will take action. Remember, your audience is also self-interested; they will act because it helps them, not because it helps you.
Practice and Refine
If you aren’t prepared and don’t know your audience well, the temptation to hedge by covering all the bases is overwhelming.
I work on the first two sections of all my proposals with my prospect. Collaboration is how I practice and refine my proposals. Collaboration is how I show that I understand their problem because if it’s not right, they change my language to make it suit what they see as their problem.
Since I never agreed to turn around a proposal in less than two weeks, I have time to understand the problem my client has. I have time to practice and refine.
Which is good because my first draft usually sucks.
Whatever the presentation you’re building, there’s really no debating that first drafts tend to be pretty feeble; but because most people start too late, that’s what the majority of presenters go to bat with.
If you want to communicate with people effectively, get ready early. Edit your blog posts. Edit your proposals. Verbally give your presentations over and over.
Do this many times. Maybe by the 5th time, it has turned into something that’s worth your audience putting into practice.
No One Cares How Pretty Your Presentation Is!!
The first step in presentation design is to select the right content, and the key idea here is relevance.
My prospects get a Google Doc and a plain old invoice. I don’t have company letterhead, and my logo doesn’t show up on anything.
My proposals are basic looking and yet I win work against letterheaded companies all the time.
No one cares how pretty your PowerPoint slides are.
No one cares about your company logo.
They only care that you understand their problem and can solve it.
If you start putting more work into understanding a problem and showing you can solve it instead of the layout of your fancy looking invoice, you’ll win more work.
The Compelling Communicator is about much more than presentation design. As you can see above, 99% of the advice fits in perfectly with writing a good proposal. In fact, their MAST while geared towards presentations, is perfect for the initial draft of your proposal.
If you can’t describe the problem in MAST, you’re not ready to send a proposal.
The Compelling Communicator should be on the reading list for every business owner.
photo by: pasukaru76