It is an incredibly cluttered, crowded, chaotic world we live in. If we want to cut through that, we only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention, so that they can get to know us, like us, and eventually trust us, because that’s who we do business with.
In fact, over 90% of what someone thinks of us, our products, our company, our ideas, is determined within the first three seconds, so the clock is always ticking.
You certainly wouldn’t know that by the way most calls, meetings, presentations, pitches, speeches and even conversations are conducted.
The False Start
I recently signed up for a webinar on content marketing tips and takeaways, from one of the most successful content marketing companies in the country.
At the appointed time I got in front of my computer, and anxiously awaited the start.
I would have a long wait wait though. Because it took two minutes and 40 seconds for the presenters to slog through boring, pointless small talk before they got to any actual content, i.e., their “first slide.”
First it was crazy weather, then it was thanking everyone for taking time out of their busy days (ironic), then some self-promotion under the guise of “telling everyone a little bit about us.”
If the most important thing you have to say to me is to thank me for showing up, and the next most important thing you have to say to me is about what you do, especially when I already know that, then I’m out.
Here’s what’s crazy. This company had already solved the most difficult marketing challenge of all; initially getting my attention. They piqued my curiosity and earned some of my time with their initial promotion and headline, and then I spent some more time getting to know them, and what they do, on their website.
However, now that they had my time and attention they were going to waste it selling me before they spent any time telling me anything of value. That is totally backwards.
People don’t happen by a webinar by accident. I’m sure most everyone who signed up had done their own due diligence on the presenting company before deciding to invest 45 minutes of their time. We had already been pre-sold in a manner of speaking, so they didn’t need to begin the selling process over again at square one.
Don’t Bury The “Lede”
I worked as a TV news reporter and anchor for 15 years, and was constantly rewriting copy that “buried the lede.” These are stories where time is wasted with superfluous words and paragraphs, and the most important part of the story is buried well into the body of the story.
Don’t do that. Make sure the most important things you have to say to someone in an interaction are the first words out of your mouth.
When I do my speeches and executive training seminars, I don’t even speak after my introduction. I go straight to a video montage of me interviewing the likes of Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Jim Carrey, Anthony Hopkins and John Travolta that demonstrate what I am going to talk about.
Then I follow that with the more typical “thanks for having me,” after I have presumably piqued their curiosity, captured their attention, and at least entertained them, if not yet delivered anything of value.
The idea is to immediately lay a sales-forward foundation that you can later fill with details and factoids and substantive information.
Ok, Maybe Some Small Talk
I included this piece about not wasting big moments with small talk at a seminar I did recently, and a professional sales person in attendance took exception to it.
He cited a selling situation he had not long ago where he said he used “small talk” to seal the deal. I asked him what the nature and subject of the conversation was, and he said he engaged his prospect in a conversation about fly fishing before they ever got around to talking business.
I asked him how he knew his prospect liked fly fishing, and he said because he had done some research on him before the meeting.
Awesome. So he knew his audience, used that to inform the first words out of his mouth, he was deliberate about what it is he wanted, and knew of a way to create a quick emotional connection to get there. I would applaud that, and say he was hitting all the right selling buttons.
I would also put that interaction in a very different category than mindlessly talking about a myriad of worthless subjects, and wasting people’s time, while the conversation simply gets going.
It could very well be with certain people the most important thing you will talk about is whether the Sucker Spawn or the Pheasant Tail nymph is the better fly, and not whether your product has a better feature or two.
The longer you spend talking with someone the better the chance you will become someone they feel like they know, like and trust. That’s the goal. And most often you stand a better chance of reaching it if you skip the small talk.