The Rules of Engagement- Rule #1: Nobody Cares About You

Some time back I was sitting in a presentation with a client and one of my coworkers.  I had several previous meetings with this client, that had gone well, and had resulted in the presentation we were about to give.  Our goal was to sell a group of executives on using technology in a new way to create engagement and a “sticky” experience that would resonate with potential customers long after the experience was over.  As we gave our presentation, the room went silent and we started to lose our audience.  It happened at the point that my coworker started to tell a long personal story about a technology experience.  The problem was that one, the story was all about him, and two, the story was meant to sell the executives on an idea that our main point of contact had already expressed no interest in.  Not only did the story bore our audience, it alienated us from our only advocate, and if I hadn’t followed up multiple times for some 6 weeks after that, it would have lost us nearly $200,000 in business.

Here’s a tip.  No one likes people who always talk about themselves.  It goes back to a phrase I’ve heard, “If you want to be interesting to others, be interested in others.”

Nobody cares why you think something is a good idea, unless you can relate it clearly to their own goals and aspirations.  Miller and Heiman’s Strategic Selling relates that every customer has both a business goal and a personal win when entering into a transaction.  We have to speak to both the business objective to qualify our product, and to the personal win, to cement our relationship with the buyer.

Here are a few ideas to consider when exploring a potential AV system with a client.

1)      Don’t open with your resume, or a list of clients.  Those come later to solidify to the client that they are making a good choice.

2)      Follow the 80/20 rule.  Listen 80% and talk 20% of the time.  Invest in the client.

3)      Take a tour of their facility or the installation site.  Become familiar with the people involved, the location itself, and the story they are wanting to tell.  This takes some time, but will pay
dividends as you will be able to propose a solution that meets all the physical and creative needs.

4)      Ask the contact what’s in it for them.  It may be recognition, it may be a bonus, it may be a promotion, or it may reduce some pain point.

5)      Move beyond content.  Collaborate with the end client on content creation and management to set yourself apart from the order taker and the hang and bang contractor.  AV is about communication, so hardware is just the delivery method, content is the message.

If you are engaging in the discovery process, the client will share more, you will learn more, and you will develop a system that meets the client’s needs on all levels so that it reaches its full potential.  You will also become a partner and not a vendor, which will help you maintain margins and value.  Get engaged early and you will be engaging and create experiences to match.

Rule #2 coming tomorrow. . .

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