4 Communication Pitfalls to Avoid When Talking to Potential Clients

Michael MignognaSalesLeave a Comment

communication pitfalls to avoid

Whether you’re selling, public speaking, networking, or having a casual conversation with a friend, you want to delight your audience with substance. Regardless of how many individuals you’re speaking to (from a one-on-one conversation to a large venue filled with 500+ people), those people have given you something that cannot be recovered…their time. You should never waste their time by taking it for granted.

So how do you talk to someone without wasting their time? Simply by providing them informative content that is both unique and valuable. But that isn’t so simple, is it?

In the New York Times bestseller TED Talks – The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, author Chris Anderson offers four stylistic approaches to avoid when speaking to someone. Anderson’s goal in the book is to provide you the tools so that you can become a great public speaker. However, the principles in the chapter “Common Traps – Four Talk Styles to Avoid” can be used when selling, marketing, or simply talking about your business and professional philosophies. Please note that the first three sections of this post are derived from the book, while the last section (…Industry Jargon…) was written by yours truly.

Avoid Spending the Entire Time Selling

Of course, one of, if not THE most important aspect of every business is its bottom line. The only way to grow a business and increase revenue is to sell its products or services. As a business owner, you always have your sales hat on. You’re ready to throw out the bait and reel in your next sale. Your elevator pitch is perfect, and you can’t wait to tell your new lead why they should buy from you. However, rarely does anyone want to be sold something. Instead, they want to learn about what solutions exist that may solve their problems.

You have to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and understand their needs and wants. They don’t want to be sold to. They need your expertise and guidance, and possibly your product or services. Try being generous and offering yourself as a resource. People are much more likely to engage in a conversation if they feel they are a part of it. And the best way to encourage a lead is to get them talking! Listen to them, support them, then sprinkle in your principles and why they work. You want your audience to leave the conversation feeling like they’ve learned something and are confident that you are looking out for their best interests.

Try not to be this guy…

sleazy salesman

Avoid Going into Meetings Unprepared

Coming to a meeting unprepared can result in a lot of awkward moments. The last thing you want to do is go off on a tangent in hopes that somehow you’ll end up making a salient point. Even if you are extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter (your business), you always want to have some sort of plan. Remember, you want to add value. By rambling for 10 minutes, finally coming to your point after talking about who knows what for most of the conversation, you have mostly wasted nine minutes of that person’s day that they can never get back. Delight your audience immediately and throughout the conversation with informative content that is relevant to their problems and concerns. Instead of wasting their time, educate and give valuable insight and advice. By doing so, you’ll also have given them some takeaways for them to use to their personal advantage.

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Avoid Talking too Much About Your Company

Unless you have a remarkable tale about how you were down to your last dime and built a multi-billion dollar company, your audience probably isn’t interested. And even the most extraordinary stories can only hold the listener’s attention for so long. Unless your audience specifically asks you how you got to where you are now, it’s best not to come out and say it unprovoked.

However, there are ways to talk about your success story without your audience falling asleep. Instead of boasting about your brand new, state-of-the-art complex in downtown Baltimore, talk about the problem you had and by what means you took to solve that problem. For example, you may have initially said, “We’ve been growing so fast we were able to invest in a new, beautiful complex that now employs 150 people!” Whereas you should’ve taken a different approach by saying, “We implemented ‘XYZ’ marketing strategies which caused us to gain clients fairly rapidly. Consequently, we were able to grow and build our dream working environment!”

Informing your audience about the outcome of your success without telling them how you accomplished the feat is like watching the end of a movie and asking why there was a happy ending. Be sure to make your success story ooze with substance and valuable information. Make sure the proof is in the pudding (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Avoid Industry Jargon and Appreciate Your Audience

When you’re an expert at something, frequently your knowledge of particular solutions to certain problems are, in the eyes of a lay person, totally foreign. Not only are the solutions sometimes radical ones, but the terminology to explain it is new and therefore meaningless to anyone not “in the know.”

When I ask lay people if they’ve ever heard of Inbound Marketing, rarely do they respond with an affirmative. Imagine if I tried explaining what Inbound Marketing was by saying “it’s a process by which marketers attract potential clients early on in the buyer’s journey, offer them pieces of content in exchange for contact information, and then use workflows to nurture them down the sales funnel, eventually passing them off as marketing qualified leads to the sales department who now knows to contact them.”

I might as well have explained it in a different language.

Instead, it’s imperative to know your audience. If you are introducing a potential solution to a prospective client, explain it in such a way that doesn’t require the use of industry jargon and terminology to understand the larger point.

keep it simple

Applied to the example earlier where I explained what Inbound Marketing is, communicating it in a way that lay people would understand might sound something like this:

Imagine you were thinking about building the modern beach house of your dreams. You were just beginning to do research about it online. So, you go to Google and search “modern beach house design ideas.” On the search results page you’d see a bunch of links to various websites that Google thinks are good websites to show you in order to provide information about what you typed into Google’s search box.

So, you click one of the links and land on a blog post on an architects website, and the blog post is titled “10 Design Elements Every Modern Beach Home Should Have,” and the article is full of helpful information. At the end of the article, you notice a button that says “Download our free ebook called ‘Your Comprehensive Guide to Designing Your Next Vacation Home'” When you click that button, you are taken to a beautiful page with a few bullet points about what you will find inside the ebook, a picture of the ebook cover, and a form that is asking for your name and email address, with a button that says “Download the Ebook.” You enter your name and email address and click “Download the Ebook” and you are taken to a page that thanks you for downloading the ebook and tells you to check your email for the free download. So, you do. 

You see a new email from the architecture firm whose website you requested the ebook from and you open up the email, click the button to read the book, and viola, you are learning all about designing a vacation home for free.

Fast forward to two days later. You receive another email from the same architecture firm. You open it up to find a nice message from them letting you know they hope you are enjoying the ebook and that you might be interested in reading a few blog posts they’ve written about vacation homes and beach houses. Wow, you think to yourself. What a helpful company.

Now, imagine if after a few of those helpful emails that architecture firm reached out to you to see if you wanted to talk about the project you’ve been thinking about. Chances are, you’d be more than happy to talk to them, and you’d probably already trust them completely.

That way of explaining Inbound Marketing, while it’s not a complete explanation, is a powerful way to begin introducing someone to what it is. Anyone can understand that story. It’s essentially jargon-free and is told in such a way that can open up the floor to probing questions and interesting conversation.

Following your short speech sharing in lay terms what something is, you have the opportunity to provide your prospective clients with additional information that they can consume and build on the knowledge you shared with them initially. That’s why it’s so important to publish awesome, helpful content on your website (on your blog, for example), because when you email prospective clients you can, at the end of your email, say “Oh, and by the way, here’s a link to a blog post we wrote about blah blah blah. I figured you’d find it interesting because of what we were talking about last time we spent time together.”

The bottom line is that when you have the privilege of people’s time you have the opportunity to impart knowledge unto them. Take this opportunity to help them, not pitch your product or services. People want to buy from a person, not a company. If you can show off your expertise by being 100% helpful, they will want to buy from you without being asked for it. Remember, give…don’t take.

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