When I worked in the editorial department of a popular kids’ magazine, the company’s president decided to have a slick sales trainer teach the basics of closing a deal to our entire staff. He wasn’t Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but close. Those of us with editorial jobs thought this was an incredible waste of our time – after all, we thought, sales was the focus of our marketing and advertising staff, not the concern of writers and editors.
But looking back, I see the president was right. We were all in the business of selling – some of us were selling magazine ad and sponsorship space; others were selling something even more valuable: ideas. In both cases, ensuring successful reception requires selling your points, not simply sharing them.
So how do you make sure you’re truly selling instead sharing? Start by recognizing when you’re presenting a book report versus delivering a true point. Book reports describe who, what, where, and sometimes how and why. These are not necessarily true points, yet are often considered automatically so simply because they start and end. They don’t necessarily convey the speaker’s stake in the subject, the subject’s relevance to the audience, or the subject’s potential impact.
The difference between delivering a book report and conveying a point is similar to the difference between recounting a movie’s plot and convincing someone to see it with you. Or between a nonfiction book’s table of contents and its blurb on the inside cover. In both cases, the first is a share, the second a sell.
These book reports can take many forms in a workplace, from status reports to town hall presentations to sales pitches. In each one, information is explained, but little or nothing of value is proposed. It’s merely an information dump.
A sharer may begin by saying:
“Today, I want to talk a little about X.”
But is this person offering anything of value? Seems not, by that introduction. It seems all he wants to do is throw out a few words and mix them with others’ words in the hope some of them stick together and magically produce an action step. After all, he only wants to “talk about it.”
Compare that to the seller:
“Today, I’m going to explain why doing X will lead to Y.”
Here’s a real-life example: a former client of mine was in the business of selling branded merchandise including hats, brochures, signs, and pins, all featuring a client’s logo. I asked her to give me her best sales pitch. She laid out all of her products and began to describe each one.
“See this hat? This hat will never collapse, is fully adjustable, and can feature your logo permanently stitched to the front. See this pin? It can feature a three-color logo and has a magnetic backing so it won’t ruin a shirt or jacket. This banner is made from special material that will resist liquids and wrinkles, and your logo can be printed all over it….”
She went on like that until she had no more items to describe, then stopped.
I told her she did a great job describing these products (think: book report), but there was one thing I never heard her say:
“If you use my services, more people will be exposed to your brand, bringing in more potential customers and earning you more money.”
That’s her real point – what she wants and needs me to do. But she never got there because she was too busy presenting her inventory and not busy enough selling her point. What’s the use of a “cost per acquisition” if you’re not actively acquiring?
Whether your goal is to become more profitable, increases awareness, or save lives, the best thing you can do is make your point explicitly and decisively – and that means selling it. Or in the more forceful words of a young Alec Baldwin, always be closing.
(Excerpted from “Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter”)
Joel Schwartzberg is a strategic communications coach, communications executive, award-winning public speaker, and author of “Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter”