Engage Your Audience by Listening

It’s been a while since the last blog post…sorry about that, I’ll try to be more timely going forward.

In the comments section of my previous blog posts, listening to your customers was mentioned more than one as a critical skill. I couldn’t agree and that will be the topic of this post.

The Definition of Listening

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, listening is defined as, “to hear something with thoughtful attention:to give consideration”. Notice that listening is not a passive activity, it is defined as ‘thoughtful attention’ and ‘to give consideration’, active words.

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What does that mean in a sales situation?  What it means to me is you should engage your audience, incorporating the questions and comments from your clients into your presentation and demonstration. If you’re not taking the opportunity to personalize your demonstrations, you’re missing an opportunity.

Why Listen?

We all have a script in our head that we follow as we deliver a demonstration. The script helps me make sure I show all the cool features and functions that make my product a better fit than the competitions. Our job as Systems Engineers  is to convince the customer that we are the best solution to their problem.

However, just repeating a standard script verbatim to a client is boring and repetitive. It feels rehearsed and canned. Worse, unless you are a perfect fit, you’re relying on the client to understand how your product features can address their business problem.That can be a challenge because your clients may not be technologists. They might represent the business units and/or have limited technical aptitude. They may have a preconceived idea of  what a solution is based on systems they’ve worked with in the past. 

Engage Your Audience

Your challenge as a Systems Engineer is to make sure you understand the underlying business problem. Then you have to relate to them how your products can address that problem and provide a solution. Plus, you have to do it in a way they relate to.

When clients ask questions, incorporate their questions into your demonstration, either then or later on in the demonstration. Don’t completely disrupt your flow, but find a way to work it in. Use some of their industry or company terminology throughout, or show similar types of data and documents, it creates a connection for your audience. It makes the demonstration more personalized, it looks familiar to them and gives them something to relate to. It also shows you understand their problem and how to solve it. You don’t have to be an expert in their field, you just need to show you and your company understand their business. 

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Throughout your demonstration, ask questions of your audience, or counter their questions with additional questions. While you don’t want to be argumentative, probing beyond the initial question often leads to good internal discussions amongst the audience. When hit with objections, or if a stated requirement feels vague, one of my favorite tactics is to ask, “How do you do that today?”. It helps me understand what the current business process is and how we may provide a better alternative. Surprisingly, in a lot of cases the answer is, “We don’t do that today”. The requirement is part of a nice to have feature list rather than a hard requirement.

The End Goal

The more interaction you have during your demonstrations, the better. By asking questions and creating dialogue you build repertoire between you, your audience and your company. If you do it well, by the end of the session, you’ll have your audience brainstorming on solutions using your technology. That is how you engage your audience.

Interested in guest blogging? I’d love to have other points of view presented. If you are a Sales Engineer, Account Executive, Product Marketer or similar role and engage in pre-sales activities, reach out. You can hit us through our contact page or via email.

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