“What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I came across this quote on linkedin last week and it resonated with me strongly.
A disproportionate amount of time is spent on what we say, and not enough on how we say it, and the non-verbal messages that we are sending. When coaching sales teams, I try to get everyone sensitive to the fact that behavior will always trump words. No matter how beautiful your materials or how eloquent your message, if it is inconsistent with what the audience is experiencing, the messages will be ignored and worst still, you will lose credibility. On the other hand, when behavior reinforces messages, those messages become much more powerful and believable.
This concept solidified for me about ten years ago when I was coaching a salesperson that had the marketing department create presentation boards so that he could show a prospect screen shots of their “state-of-the-art” web platform. He had planned to hold up the boards to explain to the client that his company was leading their industry in technology. Yes – this really happened.
Along the same lines, I remember several instances when someone from the technology department was brought to a finals presentation to do a demo of a website that they promised was “user-friendly”. If it was so “user-friendly”, why did a techy have to present the demo?
One of the most prevalent conflicts I see between messages and behaviors is when a sales team assures the client that they are client-focused, and they spend the majority of time talking about themselves, their products and their organizations.
I have seen countless slides that illustrate complex flow charts and models in excruciating detail, when one of the key messages of the presentation is “we make it simple”. If you make it so simple, why are you burdening me with all these complicated details?
And finally, I have witnessed sales teams talking about how easy they are to work with and how they will be a great “partner”, when the tension between the team members is so evident that the prospect wonders if they could get along with anyone.
It is easy to fall into the trap of sending conflicting messages when all the preparation is focused on the content of your presentation. To avoid this, take a few minutes of your preparation time to focus on the messages that you want the client to take away from the presentation. Ask yourself (and your team members) what behaviors are supportive of these messages? What can we do to better align our behavior with our messages? During your rehearsal, appoint someone the responsibility of looking for inconsistent messages, in both the slides and the team’s behavior.
Click here for a Quick Guide to help you identify common areas where messages and behaviors conflict.