Understanding what to look for before and during a conversation determines whether you will be invited back to your customers’ business tables.
A customer’s attention span can be longer – or shorter – than you think. Your goal is to avoid putting people to sleep. Instead engage and energize customers and colleagues!
Try out these key plays out of my own Customer Attention Span Plan Playbook.
Determine the Cast of Characters when creating a Customer Attention Span Plan. Before you meet with customers virtually or in person, make it a habit to determine the type of customer who will be sitting around the table. Do these decision makers come from the same professional discipline that you do (business or technical, etc.) or not? What are their respective job titles and functional responsibilities? Ask your colleagues for help. Some of them may have worked with the same company or group in the past. If you use a CRM, access historical records to round out your insights.
Avoid walking into a meeting or presentation “blind” and winging it. Know your audience’s context, professional mindset and business history. Otherwise, what you have to say will not be deemed relevant. You will lose their attention sometime during “Hello.”
Be understandable when developing a Customer Attention Span Plan. One of the biggest mistakes is assuming that everyone understands what you are saying. They don’t. Everyone does not read the same literature you do, have the same level of education that you have, listen or interpret what you say in the same way or speak the same native language you speak.
Whenever meeting with or presenting to current or potential customers, make frequent “speaking pit stops.” Check whether what you say is readily understood by everyone. Note: head nods are not an accurate indication of understanding or engagement. Ask attendees. Wait for their verbal responses. Smile in acknowledgement. Communicate.
A Customer Attention Span Plan acknowledges that Technical Folks “get your message” faster than Non-Technical Folks. You and I have sat in business presentations and keynotes. There’s a business “style.” The speaker repeats the same details over and over to drive home their points dramatically and build emotional connection with the audience. When addressing a technical audience, the opposite tends to be true. The folks seated around the table want you to get to the point quickly. They rather immediately understand where you are going with your discussion (if you’ve focused on being understandable in the first place!). In fact, they may be miles down the road, conceptually and intellectually. And they have questions they want to ask you. Make sure your presentational style is customized for your audience.
Technical decision makers become a tough crowd in short order when lengthy “sales and business” style presentations become obvious – and boring. Retrain your business brain when speaking with a cross-functional audience. Alternatively, my technical friends, slow down, you move too fast. Not everyone’s brain is racing ahead at light speed, nor do they want to think that fast. Take an empathy break from technical dialogue. Give folks time to catch up with and onto your great ideas.
Size matters when executing your Customer Attention Span Plan. Meeting or presentation length is important. Balance the quantity of material you present with the time needed to create the desired level of attendee engagement. I once was in a presentation where my then-boss created a 50-slide deck for a 30 minute round-table meeting. He never made it through the slide deck, which he deemed far more important than engaging the folks around the table. Everyone turned off and tuned out after 10 minutes.
(Bonus Play: I usually create an alternate “speed” presentation format to keep in my back pocket for those times when meeting lengths get shortened for various reasons.)
Focus on engaging your customers: that’s what really matters in creating business value.
At the end of the day, people do business with people they understand. Creating a customer attention span plan gives you flexibility to deal with all types of customer scenarios.
Before you make another presentation, create your customer attention span plan first. To find out more about creating a Customer Attention Span Plan, contact me.
Babette N. Ten Haken is a strategist, coach, analyst, author and speaker. Her focus: the interrelationship between teams, leadership and culture in technology and manufacturing. Her Workshops target excellence in the execution of strategy. Her Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.
Photo source: iStock