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Lazy empathy

“What’s in it for them?” is in my top 3 of most misleading speaking advice. It sounds perfectly reasonable. Of course our audience wants to know what’s in it for them. What could possibly be wrong about that stance?

It encourages an attitude that I call “lazy empathy”. “What’s in it for them?” is easily satisfied by some bullet points on a slide. Too often, I have seen the argument stop at “It has more features than before”. Or “It works in a million different conditions.” Or “It’s for ten different scenarios.” when, in fact, the customer only needs that specific feature under that specific condition in that specific scenario.

“What’s in it for them” too often barely scratches the surface. I believe that’s because it’s the wrong perspective. It starts with “us”. It assumes that we built something primarily to make us a profit and now we need to go hunting for a reason that makes people want to buy the thing. It assumes that we need to extract something. Often, it even leads to making up something.

Yet, when you start with “them”, there’s no need to specifically address “what’s in it” for them. Because the whole thing is. It is for them.

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