To succeed in your sales pitch, use common ground
Audiences like to believe that presenters see, hear, and feel the world as they do. When this occurs they become more inclined to give credibility to the presenter’s sales message.
How much thought do you put into selecting the most appropriate persona for your presentation?
Persona is the technique of deciding which personal or professional characteristics will give you the most connection to the customer audience.
Ask yourself two questions:
1. Where do I have common ground with my audience?
2. In which areas am I different from the audience, thereby signalling incompatible agendas?
Successful sales presentations amplify similarity, while minimising difference.
Let’s take a ten second case-study: Imagine you are the Sales Director of an IT company. We’ll call it TekHouse. You’ve been invited to speak to a conference of IT Directors on the subject of data security. If you win them over, this audience could represent a sea of new business.
Step 1. Identify the optimal persona for the audience
We naturally have multiple persona that we slip into throughout the day. Think of the subtle variations in behaviour and attitude that you would demonstrate when alone with your partner, or alone with your children, or alone with your boss, or with your colleagues, or with your friends from outside of work, or with your parents. Shakespeare had it absolutely right: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”
Whilst remaining true to who we are, we naturally swap the masks of our persona in order to match with whatever audience is before us. Except, when we make a sales presentation. Then we tend to forget all about persona, and instead go with the role of “company representative”. That particular mask however, is not the only one that we could select, and might not offer the best match with the audience.
For example, as Sales Director of TekHouse, you have multiple persona possibilities:
TekHouse Representative: This will win you points with audience members who are already fans of TekHouse, but distance you from anybody who prefers your competition. From the perspective of winning new customers, all you’ll achieve is preaching to the converted.
Sales Director: All of the audience are IT Directors. None of them are Sales Directors. Majoring on the fact that you are “Sales Director of TekHouse” will therefore only create distance.
A business user of IT products: This persona identifies you as part of the pesky community that your audience has to support and police. Not good.
A member of the IT industry: This persona brings you closer to the audience. Everybody in the room is a member of the the IT industry. This persona allows you a modicum of common bond.
A business director, with all the people issues, budget issues, and time pressure that the role of being a director involves: Managing people, budgets, and time is a topic that unites everybody in the room. A pitch constructed around this area of shared ground will maximise the audience’s view of you as somebody who shares their concerns and day-to-day reality.
Step 2. Adapt your presentation to that persona
Without radically altering the sales presentation that you intend to make, channel it towards the focus-point of that shared persona. Which of your talking points can be illustrated by speaking from the view of a business director? Where can you include broad collective pro-nouns that start with phrases such as “We can all understand…”, or “We’ve all experienced..”
Step 3. Having picked the persona, stick to it
Personas need to be consistent. If you decide to make an ad hoc quip about how annoying you find it to remember IT passwords, then ask yourself which persona you’ve engaged. Who complains about changing passwords? Users do, and for this particular audience, “users” is the collective noun for folks that life would be easier without. Especially users who forget their passwords!
Identify what common characteristics you share with your next audience, and then let those characteristics become the basis for shared success.
Step 4. Remember: It’s child’s-play
Think about how much pleasure small children get from simple shape-matching games. Maybe you’re even one of those people who can remember that far back into their own childhood. Shape matching is something that we started to do naturally from the age of two. As adults the same aptitude continues. We verbalise it with phrases such as “a square peg in a round hole” when we want to denote a situation that doesn’t work.
To bring the skill of persona into your pitch strategy is fundamentally as simple as asking what shape the audience is, and making yourself into as similar a shape as possible.
Create common ground, and the common ground will create pitch credibility.
Papal Update: March 14th
A new Pope has been announced and much press comment has been attracted by his conscious usage of the little used title of “Bishop of Rome”.
Like any vast and hierarchical bureaucracy, the Vatican can either support or frustrate a leader in their attempt to realise their vision for the Church. In selecting this persona, we’re seeing the new Pope exercising strategic awareness of which audience he must first win over, that being the Cardinals and Bishops of the Catholic Church.
The persona chosen is saying “I am one of you”.