July 24, 2019 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli

5 Ways to Get Your Message Across

The speaker is responsible for communicating -- not the customer

As a salesperson, speaker and trainer, I naturally network with a lot of other salespeople, speakers and trainers. A common complaint I often hear from them is how bad their audience is at listening.

The speaker blames the audience. The teacher blames the students. The salesperson blames the customer. The manager blames her people. The complaint is always the same. “They don’t listen!”

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a company’s annual sales meeting. After presenting a half day training session, I stuck around to watch the after-dinner keynote speaker.

I watched in horror as he became openly angry on stage when the crowd failed to stop networking (social drinking) to listen to him. After struggling to get the crowd’s attention, he was visibly shook up and struggled through his presentation.

Afterward, I met him for a few minutes before departing and we discussed how it went.

This is a common theme around those that speak professionally. And if you are in sales, you definitely speak professionally. Your audience might be only one person at a time, but it’s your words that make the sale.              

While we might blame the audience, it’s up to us as speakers to deliver a message that is heard. I’m not saying there aren’t audiences that don’t pay attention.

I’m not even saying that speakers don’t have great messages, prepared in a great format and presented in engaging ways. That keynote speaker is accomplished in the industry and has a great message. The problem was his recognition of the audience and what they were capable of receiving.

Ever travel to a country and not be able to speak the local language? What do you do when you ask for directions or try to speak to them in your language? You yell the question louder? We all do it as a natural reaction.

Our thought process is … “If you didn’t understand me the first time, I’ll yell it louder and that will help.”

Is it their fault that they don’t understand this tourist yelling in a foreign language? Of course not. It’s our fault as the speaker. I feel the same way when someone tells me how bad their audience is at listening.

Here are 5 Ways to help get your message across:

  1. Change the Words: The words do make a big difference. The tough part is coming up with the right words is hard work. The lazy way is to use buzzwords and jargon because we think that’s what everyone understands (and it’s easy). We use “Value added”, “ROI”, “best practices”, “sustainability”. Or, we overuse industry jargon that everyone else overuses.
    “Using the right words can make your message come to life or not” or “Using the right words can make your message come to life or kill it right there on the stage as you present”
    If your message is putting your customers to sleep, then look for just a few places where you can bring more descriptive words in. You don’t have to use them everywhere. Some jargon and buzzwords are ok. Look for the most important message and think of other words you can use. Notice in the two examples above, how the second one describes the message dying right in front of you. Not only is it much more descriptive, but it includes a story line of an entity: your message. It gives the audience a visual example on the most important concept of that statement.
  2. Change the Format: Go from lecture to audience involvement. Go from death by PowerPoint to a fill-in-the-blank handout. Go from you speaking to bringing up an audience member to speak. Go from telling to showing. Remember that old kindergarten ritual of “Show and Tell”? Did anyone ever care about the tell part? Of course not. We wanted little Johnny to get on to the “Show” part. We wanted him to pull that turtle out of the box and let us see it. Even better was when we got to touch it. It should have been called “Show and Touch”. Your customers are no different. Instead of telling, show them with a sample or a tour.
  3. Change the Delivery Method: Is traditional advertising not working? Then get into the latest craze of “Content Marketing” with social media. Is your audience checked out after a long day? Then reduce your presentation to the highlights or best parts and offer a handout later with the details. This change requires a great deal of creativity. Look to those in your group that are the most creative to come up with ideas on how you can get your most complex or important messages across. Also, look outside your industry. We aren’t the only ones in the world trying to convey complex messages.
  4. Change the Location: Recently, I rode with an agronomy salesperson doing some ride along coaching. The first farm we visited was one of his better customers. We met in the producer’s office, which was directly connected with two other offices of his wife and their office assistant. As we met, the office phones continued to ring. Each time, either his wife or their assistant would come in with a question from the caller. This guy had everything under his control. The phone rang, his cell phone beeped and his computer dinged with email notifications. Almost impossible to get him to focus on a topic as he managed all this communication. Leaving the farm, I had one piece of coaching/telling. “Try to never call on that guy in his office!” Take him to breakfast, lunch or on a tour of his farm. He will never focus as he sits in his office.
  5. Change the Speaker: Unfortunately, at some point, you have to consider this as an option. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are firing the salesperson or manager. It might just mean you bring in someone else to deliver a key message. This happens frequently with sales teams that need an external speaker or training session. As a salesperson, I always tried to bring in our resident expert in an area. Customers love to connect with internal resources that are helpful. Here are a few to think about:
  • A PhD or veterinarian to deliver the technical message.
  • An accounting person to discuss the intricacies of a customer’s billing.
  • An operations or dispatch person to talk manufacturing and trucking topics.
  • A manager to bring in a feeling of importance. I used to call it “bringing in a heavy hitter”. This can definitely lend emphasis to your message.

As the youngest of six kids, I can’t tell you how many times I said something repeatedly to no avail. Only to have one of my older siblings pick up on it, say it two minutes later and have it welcomed as a great idea. They did not want to hear anything from the youngest in the family. So, I learned early on which sibling to tell and get my message out there. Wow, I guess I never realized what a great communication lesson I was learning.


For more information on Ag sales training, coaching or business development, contact Greg Martinelli at Greg@GregMartinelli.net.

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