Introducing new ideas are exciting and people can get overcome with emotion when introducing something new. I find that team members and customers alike can get caught up in what a product or service can do and miss the mark when explaining it to me. 

I’ve seen peers brief each other on new and well-intended initiatives only to lose the audience because they’ve spent time talking about the wrong things. Selling does not come naturally to me, but I’ve found a few tricks that work for my personality. 

“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.”

Margaret Atwood

In a time when you are competing with short attention spans and myriad distractions, it’s not enough to have a pretty package. You need to explain to people how it relates to them. A connection needs to be made.

The tips below are simple and effective. Most importantly, you need to find what works for you.

{*} Tell a story. Stories help people understand the who, what, why, when, and where of your offering. Executed well, it can bring people into your version of the future and along for the ride. Imagine being able to hand-hold a customer on a new experience—that’s what a  good story can feel like. It can take people away to another place in an instant and when done snap them back into reality. A story can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a feature film. The length and content depend on your customer and what you are selling.

Storytelling is most effective when you can capture someone’s attention and then engage someone on an emotional level. 

{*} Describe the problem you are solving. A key aspect of a sales pitch is to clearly define the problem that you are solving for people. It’s not enough to rely on the features or the aesthetic components of your product. People see through this pretty quickly. Being able to state the problem that you are solving helps reframe what you are offering. It makes it easier to see the problem-solution relationship.

{*} Know your audience. Understanding who you are trying to reach enables you to fine-tune your message. Are you speaking to executives, middle management, or new employees? Are you trying to reach parents, singles, teens, or kids? Your message will change depending on your target audience. What you say to one group may not be relevant to another.

{*} Provide context. An often overlooked aspect of explaining a new idea is not providing a description of the factors that drove you to make your decision. This information can help frame your solution in a way that makes your idea look like the only possible choice. It can also be a way to explain why you chose to develop an idea one way versus another. New products or services that are presented within a specific context, as in where they may be used, can be a powerful way to demonstrate how it used.

I’m obsessed with giving the audience something they don’t see coming.

Jordan Peele

Connecting with other people is the foundation for effective salesmanship. Persistence works well, too, but it can get old when you are not reading your audience correctly. I generally like to keep new ideas simple and to the point. I like to ask people if they can explain their idea to me in one sentence. If they can’t then the idea is probably not ready to be introduced to others.

The faster you can get to the point where you confidently explain your idea in a few breaths, then the closer you’ll get to clarifying the value that you provide.

[Image: A Metro station tunnel in Washington, DC. A rectangle is a simple form that creates an impressive space when used in repetition. Like a good story, the design of this tunnel is a simple concept that grows in complexity as you see how the rectangular shape is pushed through the project.]

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