Open doors

Two very different ways to create an offer:

No. 1: Leave as many doors open as possible and make sure that there’s something in it for everyone even if that means that it’s not perfect for any specific person.

No. 2: Close as many doors as possible and make sure that it’s perfect for one specific person even if that means that it doesn’t appeal to most.

Which one do you choose?

PS: There’s no right or wrong here. It’s a choice. But it’s best to make it a conscious choice.

What’s the boldest promise you can make?

I’m speaking of bold promises that you actually intend to keep.

I mean, it’s easy to make bold promises when you don’t intend to keep them, right? It’s also easy to keep little promises when they are not bold at all.

It’s the combination that is hard: Make a bold promise and confidently keep it.

Bullshitters don’t care about keeping promises. That’s why they are so good at making bold promises. Their sole concern is to get the deal and they will promise you anything that will make you more likely to sign it.

People who care for the cause, on the other hand, struggle at the other extreme. Too often, they shy away from making bold promises because they want to be 100% certain to be able to keep them. Which leads them to only ever make the littlest of promises.

But too often that’s a way of hiding. Hiding from the work that would be required to keep a bolder promise.

The sweet spot is to make a bold promise (possibly even one that scares you) and work hard to keep it.

The key difference is this: For the bullshitter, the deal is the end of the story. For people who care, it’s the beginning.

The customer will only know after the deal.

Don’t leave them to the bullshitter. In the customer’s best interest you need to be able to compete with the bullshitter. You know their game. Change it! Not by making smaller promises but by making bigger efforts to keep bold promises.

The right idea in the wrong meeting room

Some pitch situations quickly turn into a status game.

The pitching party feels high status because they feel like they’ve really nailed it and have an extraordinarily brilliant product. It’s going to change the world (which might be true).

The decision maker feels high status because they get to decide about the proposal and they want you to know that they have the final say. They are extraordinarily brilliant in identifying trends (which might be true).

Inevitably, both desires for higher status clash when one of the parties makes a claim that the other just must dispute – because, well, they know it better (which might be true).

The world, however, couldn’t care less about who’s right and who’s not. Or about who’s in charge and who’s not. They care about which ideas see the light of day. And so, the right idea in the wrong meeting room likely isn’t worth much when the parties have status as their top priority.

Change happens easier if we ban status from the meeting room.

If the other party doesn’t see it that way, you might be better off looking for a different partner.

Pitching to the masses

With Apple’s massive success over the years, it’s easy to miss that Apple’s greatest pitches were not to the masses.

Quite the opposite. Many observers dismissed the iPod initially (“A Firewire interface?”). Many ridiculed the iPhone initially (“No keyboard?”). Many laughed at the MacBook Air initially (“No DVD drive?”)

Steve Jobs embraced that fact. Knowing that he couldn’t sell a billion iPods right from the start, he didn’t even try to.

He didn’t speak to the masses. He spoke to the people who got it. Those who care for the same things Apple cares about.

That’s a crucial insight to understand the “reality distortion field”. This term was crafted by people who “didn’t get it” to make fun of the people who “did get it”.

Of course, what really happened was that Jobs intentionally resonated strongly with what mattered to the latter while – again: intentionally – dismissing the rest.

Jobs didn’t bother to make everyone fall in love. He gave the fans a reason to love the new product. He gave them a reason to be a proud early adopter. He gave them the feeling that Apple understood their struggles and built a solution that smoothly solves them.

And then, the fans spread the word. Slowly. The iPod took years to become a mass phenomenon.

What matters to your fans and how can you speak their language so clearly that it appears to outsiders as a reality distortion field?

Would you like tea or coffee?

A simple decision, isn’t it? Well, you have no idea.

Let’s have some fun with it and pretend we would have to decide in a meeting. Obviously, we’ll need a PowerPoint to discuss the matter, right? Quickly, we arrive at 10 slides highlighting all of the important aspects, like so:

Slide 1: Title slide with presentation title (“Advantages and disadvantages of proceeding with tea vs. coffee”), name of presenter, their department, date, location, at least five logos
Slide 2: Agenda
Slide 3: Sales distribution of tea and coffee during the last 6 quarters, broken down by region. Underneath: comparison with other drinks such as hot chocolate and various juices
Slide 4: Mission statement for the coffee choice, market analysis including target group breakdown
Slide 5: Composition of ingredients (unfortunately, though, the font is so tiny that you can’t read anything) plus certificates from food testing institutes
Slide 6 & 7: The same for tea
Slide 8: Customer satisfaction rating and award for the most creative brand campaign 2021
Slide 9: Classification in the brand range with different flavor additives, variants, sizes and special promotions
Slide 10: Summary
Bonus slide 11: “Thank you for your attention”

All of this followed by an intense discussion to repeat the arguments a couple of times.

All of this without ever asking the question plainly: “Would you prefer tea or coffee?”

I’m positive that quite a number of meeting room presentations fit that description rather well.

The furious entrepreneur

Recently, I met an entrepreneur who was furious at his audience. They just didn’t get him. Although he explained his idea in thorough detail and told them everything there was to say, they just didn’t approve the budget he needed to implement his idea.

He was really mad at them. Some weren’t even paying proper attention, one was typing on their phone.

But of course, the audience is always right. If you didn’t grab their attention, it’s not their fault. If they didn’t get it, they didn’t get it.

It just doesn’t matter how good we think our pitch is. It’s always the audience’s call. No one in your audience is obliged to understand, let alone like your idea. It’s your job to explain your idea in a way that gets their attention and resonates.

I asked the furious entrepreneur what he learnt from the experience and whether there’s anything he would do differently the next time.

To which he replied: “No, no! The pitch was brilliant.” He wanted to quickly move on and try it unchanged somewhere else – any change would just lose him time.

Most delicious

The bakery shows us one piece of each of their three most delicious cakes, each one more delicious than the other. Each one so delicious that we can’t resist. Each one so delicious that we’re dying to try the second one, too.

And when we come back, a week later, to try the third piece, we bring our friends. And the bakery will have enough cake for everyone. And maybe a fourth cake. And the next time, the friends bring their friends.

Too often we try to sell people a whole cake instead of a single piece … just an hour after they had lunch. So it’s no wonder they decline: “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Or maybe they are overwhelmed by the selection, all the more when we start to explain in excessive detail the recipes of all 32 cakes so that by number 25 they no longer recall number 7 (although they actually love cheesecake).

When we’re bursting with pride, we tend to speak far too much and listen far too little. We try to sell as much as possible and risk selling nothing at all. We oversell and overwhelm rather than satisfy and delight.

People don’t need to change their entire diet to eat our cake exclusively, let alone immediately. Let’s rather turn them into fans who come to us permanently and keep bringing new friends.

The innovator’s communication dilemma

Many innovators spend an enormous amount of time trying to make us appreciate their innovation. After all, it’s the innovation that they sell and so for us to buy we need to understand how it works, right?

The problem, of course, with explaining an innovation is that it’s, well, new. Which is why it’s probably hard to understand. On top of the fact that a lot of people are not particularly eager to embrace the new.

And so, many innovators struggle with getting the love they feel they deserve.

A shift in perspective might help.

Because, after all, the innovation is likely a new solution to an old problem. Which is familiar to the audience. And easy to understand. They get it immediately because they feel the pain when you reference it.

And so, instead of making us get them, the innovator’s communication efforts might be better spent in getting us. Rather than making us appreciate their solution, it might help for them to appreciate our struggles.

Because when we trust that they do the latter, we might be willing to learn about the former.

How cool is that?

“How cool is that? I can speak about my idea for 30 minutes and everyone’s going to listen? Wow! This is great. Let’s get to work. I want to make sure that this is going to be the best presentation we ever did.”

Well, sadly, this was a rather unusual way of looking at things. More realistically, reactions are often more like this:

“What? Thursday? Impossible! I still have to write that report plus a bunch of meetings. How long did you say? 30 minutes? Phew. Martin, you did a similar presentation the other day. Can you send it to me? Let’s see whether I can just wing it from there. Yes, Wednesday is fine. I won’t have time to prepare, anyway.”

Crazy, isn’t it? And yet, it’s the typical reaction.

But honestly: Where else do you get 30 minutes of exclusive attention from an entire audience other than with a presentation?

So, what are you going to do with it the next time this opportunity opens up for you?

The easiest way of getting to a “yes”

It’s a simple truth: The easiest way to get a decision maker to approve a decision is to offer something that they actually want. Of course, the obvious question is: What do you do when you need their approval for something that they don’t want?

Try empathy!

Why are they right to not want it? What do they want instead? How does what you want align to what they want? How could you modify the idea you want them to approve so that it also gets them what they want? How does your idea contribute to them getting what they really want?

It’s even better to ask these questions before you actually build your project, your product, your proposal. When you do, all you need to do with your pitch is to tell a true story about the thing you’ve built.

Spread the Word

Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz