We know that communication is designed to pass on our ideas, opinions and thoughts to others – to share our knowledge and to persuade others to our point of view.

But in a business sense there is much more we need to consider when we are giving a presentation designed to show what we are capable of, and what our company can do for the potential client – because we are sometimes all at sea with the abstract concept.

If I have a product, it is clearly visible. It can be shown, demonstrated and the client can see and handle it. Its benefits are immediately discernable and its advantages immediately obvious.

But what about if I have a service to offer – something that is not so tangible, something which has no immediate demonstrable impact – how do I persuade my clients to value that?

This is an ever present problem to all those engaged in service industries; business coaches, life coaches, systems analysis, administrative experts – and communication trainers! How do we market our product to appeal to our clients?

There are some benefits in understanding how our listeners actually sift our information, and how they compare and contrast, and how they make judgements on what is important. There is an old saying in the military “To win the campaign, know your enemy”

Of course I am not implying that our clients are our enemies!!! But the same logic does apply. Only by knowing our ‘enemy’ will we understand how they think and how they react – so we also need to know our clients, how they think and how they react. Then we can position our presentation to appeal to those known areas of interest. That is common sense.

So some understanding of how listeners actually relate to information might help us in our campaign to sell the abstract.

Basic persuasion is based on common understanding, which is ‘understanding’ that is shared by both the presenter and the listener. That is why so many of these types of presentations begin with rhetorical questions. The speaker is trying to achieve some basic common ground. When the speaker and the listener agree on rhetorical issues, there is a basis of common understanding that a good presenter can build on.

There is also a technique used which compares the abstract with something tangible that is recognisable and important to the listener. When they have a concrete substitute they can identify much easier with the abstract concept. So when I am trying to show the importance of ongoing training to a company, I talk about how the directors would never let the machinery run down or rust away – it is a fixed asset and to do so would be to sow the seeds of self-destruction.

I can then ask rhetorical questions about how they view their work force “Are these not also valuable and irreplaceable assets to the company?” By asking questions I can get the client to consider just how much it would cost to replace some of their skilled operators; how valuable their knowledge and experience really are; And how necessary for building on for the future.

By doing this I have linked their care and concern for their plant and machinery with their care and concern for their workforce. Linking it to investment, it becomes a simple step for me to then move into the ways in which they can “maintain their human fixed assets

I spoke about how decisions are made in my previous blog, and it sometimes needs an emotional element to bring the decision down in your favour. Linking your abstract service to a more concrete concern that is immediately identifiable can make the problem you solve far more visible to your prospective client.

So to sell the abstract, get to know your client; what is important to them, important for the continuation of their business and how you can link your service to that real concern. When you have come to know your client – you can start on your campaign.

Wellington used that strategy to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo – and you too can be as successful if you employ it your campaign. So let’s to battle!!!

Michele @ Trischel

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