Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Your Message Across

Sometimes I think that an idea or solution is so perfect that I believe everyone else is going to believe it is as well.  I have such excitement and enthusiasm when describing it that the energy exuded by me is almost infectious but the question I have to ask is this:  Does my client buy into this solution and does their understanding share the same enthusiasm?

I think we are all guilty of thinking we got our message across only to find out that it got lost in translation.  I recently had that happen to me.  I was working on finishing up 2009 books for a client and there were credit card statement entries missing.  I explained to the client if she would just let me enter the credit card charges on a regular basis, it would be easier for balancing purposes.  To get things done for taxes however, now that we were in a crunch, I suggested that I could do summary entries, meaning I would enter one credit card charge for all supplies, one for all fuel, one for all computer supplies, etc and then be able to balance and get the books done for taxes.  Well, when she spoke with her tax preparer she conveyed that as I was planning on 'jamming' balancing journal entries in to make it balance.  Huh?  How did one become the other?

These misunderstandings are very common, because we take for granted and don't think about, the assumptions we are making in each and every situation.  In this one, because my client isn't involved with doing books on a regular basis, she didn't understand what I was meaning but it translated in her mind as she described.  Not her fault - but it served as a reminder to me that I need to be very clear with what I am saying and make sure the party I am speaking to has really understood my message.

Let's take this to another level - let's say you are meeting with a new client who is looking to hire you to create a marketing plan.  You assess the situation, make your presentation with recommendations and then begin implementation.  In the process the client begins to balk and starts asking questions and revising written materials and soon you realize things are getting off message.  How did this happen?  You thought the client understood the vision you had developed for them but now it appears they really didn't and want to make changes.  What do you do?  How do you recover?

When you are starting out in the world of self-employment, you are always being tested; either by yourself or by your potential clients - it's part of what makes being on your own thrilling and frightening at the same time.  Each person I have talked to about their business experiences have had these experiences.  But when you are new to selling a message or vision you are still, on some level, continuing to develop your message. The more you can create opportunities to deliver your message, the more skilled you will become at making it clear and concise and easy to understand.  

Getting your message across is a little like being a stand-up get up and deliver your message (joke or funny story) hoping to get a laugh or applause from your audience.  We in business hope to gain a new client...however, if they don't laugh and ask you to leave the stage it's a good indication you probably need to get new material.  Try it - make a goal of delivering your message to a mixed bag of people.  Then ask them to paraphrase what you just said and see what happens.  It's a great tool in helping you develop messages that leave very little room for being misunderstood.

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