The Curse No Salesperson Said They Suffer From – Ever!

Bernadette McClelland

The Curse No Salesperson Said They Suffer From – Ever!

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My family always plays games on Christmas Day and one of our favourites is Charades. Not only do we find it massively amusing, but the person who is up front generally gets so bemused and frustrated at why their simple label cannot be guessed in such a relatively short time-frame, especially considering all the clues they are giving.

And like many of us, we know what we are conveying yet wonder how something so simple, complete with our own clues and instructions, cannot be understood by those we are working with.

Many of us have also heard the phrase ‘once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it’ perfectly portrayed in this optical illusion that went crazy on the internet begging the question as to how can her legs be so shiny or, once using peripheral vision, realising they, in fact, have been painted. You now can’t un-see it!

Bernadette McClelland

‘When we learn something, we can’t not know it again’ and that leads us to not remember what it was like not knowing it. In addition to that, the longer we know something, the more we assume other people already know what we know.

This is referred to as ‘The Curse of Knowledge’ and can ruin any form of idea transfer.

I am an avid learner and like you, none of us can unlearn what we learn, so therefore our empathy or patience for those who don’t know what we know, is unconsciously lessened. This is a huge learning curve for many who present, teach, coach, market any most of all, sell.

When we share our insights, teach some new idea or demonstrate a new product, we can’t just launch straight into it purely because we know about it, nor can we use our jargon or industry speak, nor even assume the complexities around what we are discussing are going to be understood – no matter the intelligence of the people around the table.

We need to frame what we are going to share, and just like building up a joke and leading to the punchline, we also need to stage our ideation.

How we stage the transfer of any idea, marketing message or benefits of any new product, can be helped by executing the following ideas:

  1. Know your audience and their level of knowledge or understanding through clarification, discovery or qualification questions. Some know more than others but you need to know what they do and don’t know and what their expectations are.
  2. Share how your idea came about, provide a bit of history and reasoning, so that your readers or audience or customers can put what you are about to say into context allowing them to receive the idea or information in a simple way that they know what to do with it once you are done.
  3. Be aware that when they nod their head, they may not be agreeing or even understanding what you are saying. Instead, they might just be someone who is acknowledging that they have heard you. If you don’t check in, you run the risk of losing them, and because the majority of people don’t want to be seen as not ‘getting it’, they will never let you know and therefore won’t do anything with that information.
  4. Tell stories and create meaning around your ideas because we know that stories tap into our emotions and sell and putting ideas into context helps us make sense of things.
  5.  Bring in concrete examples such as case studies, customer testimonials and proof statements because they provide an even more relevant and relatable level of understanding around your ideas and teachings.
  6.  Use simple language or lay terms. I remember hearing a story about a company who were going through a bit of strife and the executive group gathered in the board room to nut it out. At the end of this session that had so deeply entrenched themselves into strategies and tactics with highfalutin ideas and inflated rhetoric around ‘maximising return to shareholder’and ‘holding market position’ MBA jargon, that they had lost sight of what they were trying to communicate. When the new hire sitting at the table was asked what he took away from his initial strategy meeting, his answer was simple, ‘I’m guessing you want us to kick the competition’s ass’. Sometimes, keeping things simple will create more cut through than any convoluted industry speak or highly contagious assumption – just because you know it.

It’s not necessarily a case of ‘dumbing down’ the ideas that you want to convey – it’s about not assuming your audience know what you know. It’s about making sure your language, words and instructions are memorable, meaningful and emotional, yet conveyed in simple to understand, concrete terms, unlike this 1776 speaking Charade example.

My first makes all nature appear of one face; At the next we find music, and beauty and grace; And, if this Charade is most easily read, I think that the third shou’d be thrown at my head.

[The answer is “snow-ball.”]

It’s so easy to, and yet so important you don’t, fall victim to this curse because the last thing you want is for people to be second guessing you, your message or your game-plan, either – for their sake and yours!

Be Bold and Brilliant

Bernadette McClelland

Bernadette McClelland is a Keynote and Sales Kick-Off Speaker, Executive Sales Leadership Coach, and published author. CEO of Sales Leaders Global P/L, she ensures her clients create double digit, sustainable sales growth and marketplace differentiation through unique programs based on ‘The NeuroScience of Sales Leadership’.

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Image Courtesy of Faustin Tuyambaze

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4 Comments
  • Richard Benchimol
    Posted at 12:26h, 16 March Reply

    Well said Bernadette. It is very important to make sure that you are not just heard but understood. Your points are a great guideline to help make that happen. Thanks for the post.

    • admin
      Posted at 23:51h, 30 March Reply

      My pleasure Richard – and you are right, there is a definite difference between both being heard and understood.Cheers

  • Brooke Harper
    Posted at 03:45h, 21 March Reply

    Very informative post. Thank you for sharing your ideas. May I just add, “engage your audience.” Make your audience curious that they would remain engaging until the end. Make them contribute/participate little by little so they won’t get lost.

    • admin
      Posted at 23:57h, 30 March Reply

      Thanks Brooke, engaging your audience is key as we can bounce off them so much and learn so much in the process too. Cheers

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