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Is this working against you?

When you stop and think about it, communication seems so remarkably simple.

You say something and the person you’re talking to hears it. Job done!

So when it comes to a work-winning presentations, it’s understandable why so many people apply the same thinking.

You explain how good your product or service is and then detail to the prospective client how they will benefit from buying it.

The client hears your words, understands the points you’ve made and says, “Yes please, where do I sign?”

Nice and easy…

So how come you don’t win every bid, tender or sales proposal you put forward?

The answer is that in reality, communication is a whole lot more complicated than you might think.

A three stage process

It’s not possible to use telepathy to directly implant an idea or concept into someone else’s brain, so we must pick words that best convey what we want to get across to them.

Psychologists have identified that this communication process is broken down into three separate stages:

  1. Encoding: We have an idea that we want to communicate and pick the words and phrases that do that best.
  2. Transmission: We then say the chosen words and phrases so the client can hear them.
  3. Decoding: Having heard our words and phrases the client interprets them. However that process of interpretation is biased by their experience and prejudices.

Of course the client’s interpretation is also swayed by how you transmit the words.

For example, a lack of eye contact will be taken to mean, at best, little confidence in what you are proposing; at worst you could be lying.

Here is a real world example of the encoding/decoding problem:

An electronics company was looking for a manufacturing consultancy to advise on their investment programme.

Three were shortlisted to present to the board.

One very well qualified consultancy focused their presentation on three aspects:

  1. Their vast experience working with international electronics companies
  2. Their objective evidence-based approach to decision making
  3. And a robust challenge of all assumptions.

They were unsuccessful.

In the feedback session the MD of the electronics business gave three reasons:

  1. “We wanted a bespoke solution, but you seem to be offering us a regurgitation of what you have done many times before.”
  2. “You came across as arrogant and dismissive of what we have achieved. As if we had been flying by the seat of our pants.”
  3. “We have a very collaborative culture and we were concerned you would be confrontational.”

The client’s team will interpret everything you say in the light of their baggage and prejudices. So pick your words with care.

Make the communication process work for you and make sure that it will be interpreted the right way by the prospective client.

If you can do that effectively, you’ll greatly increase the chance that they will end up asking you, “Where do I sign?”.