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Fewer Data Dumps, More Discussions

October 13    |    Kathleen Redd

I’ve just returned from a fabulous conference with the Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM) in Seattle, Washington. Every time I attend an ABPM event, I walk away feeling energized and inspired to share at least one key takeaway.

Today, it’s this... 

Customers need fewer data dumps and more discussions.
Here’s what I mean by that. Typically, when a VIP customer visits a briefing center, briefing professionals invite technical colleagues or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to share any new developments in technology and product with the customer.

The challenge, however, is that often technical SMEs are so passionate about what they do that they forget to filter the information they provide through the “Why should my customer care?” lens.

Consequently, the customer walks away feeling overwhelmed and confused as to what the solution was or how it could benefit them.

That’s precisely why my friends in the briefing world have intentionally given their SMEs a new title: Discussion Leaders.

Which begs the question, what do Discussion Leaders do well that data dumpers don’t?
There are 3 key things the best Discussion Leaders do exceptionally well.

I shared these with my ABPM colleagues and I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too, in your interactions with customers—whether your organization has a formal briefing program or not.

(1) Have a plan.

Mandel CEO Ed Musselwhite is fond of saying: "Be thoroughly prepared in order to be thoroughly flexible." While a discussion may sound like an open-ended conversation, the most successful discussions follow a clear structure.

Mandel’s Blueprint® is a terrific tool for creating that structure! It can help you think through your message and bring clarity and focus to your customer’s challenges and the solutions you have to offer.

As a Discussion Leader, your goal should be to demonstrate your understanding of your customer’s world in the first couple of minutes of the meeting, and then recommend a plan for meeting your customer’s needs and objectives.

If any adjustments need to be made to what you plan to talk about, make them at the beginning of the meeting, so no time is wasted.

By checking in with your customer up front, you set the stage for a stronger collaboration throughout. In other words, you communicate: “This is our discussion…not my presentation.”

(2) Be sincerely curious.

It’s hard to imagine that many people, before walking into a meeting, say “I think I’ll do all the talking today.” 

But when you’re the expert who’s been asked to share information, it’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of presenting a new technology or service you’ve worked so hard to build.

Before you know it, the meeting is over. And you realize you never took a break to check in with your customer or to invite others to contribute.

As you walk into your next customer meeting, let this be your mantra: Be sincerely curious.

Be curious about what your customer (or colleague) is thinking. Use thought-provoking questions to encourage conversation. Then LISTEN very carefully to what is said.

If you give them the chance, people will share important information about their challenges and how you might be able to help them.

(3)  Create opportunities for dialogue.

When you listen carefully, you’re better able to link back to comments your customer (or colleague) makes and build on those comments with information about your own recommendations or solutions.

A data dumper loves the non-stop slideshow full of information, while Discussion Leaders are comfortable turning off the projector.

Don’t be afraid to put away your slides and use the whiteboard or sticky notes to facilitate collaborative problem-solving and brainstorming with your customer.

How can Mandel Communications help? 
Avoiding the data dump trap takes preparation and practice.

Mandel’s flagship workshop, Think and Speak for Results™, provides business professionals with the must-have communication skills they need to lead compelling and effective discussions with customers and colleagues.

Contact us to learn what this powerful two-day investment could do for your briefing program and Subject Matter Experts—or for anyone within your organization who regularly communicates with prospects and customers.

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Mandel is the global communication skills training company for organizations that believe in unleashing the power and potential of their employees. As proven experts in the science of communication in a complex world, we help companies around the world discover new ways to help their people think and speak more effectively, and make every communication count.
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