By Joe Rife
Meetings, presentations, pitches, interviews … entrepreneurs constantly interact with their own team members, mentor/advisors, prospective employees, customers, suppliers, investors and “business partners”.
Every business leader develops “scripts” to enable consistent messaging and distill technology, vision and plan into presentation formats, “elevator pitches” and talking points. These practiced responses can easily become traps.
Clear communication is only achieved by stepping outside this “pitch frame” to listen and answer questions asked by the other party. While obvious in concept, managing an effective business conversation requires both discipline and practice. Let’s begin with a framework for business conversations.
Establish a Goal
News flash: you won’t close the deal on your first meeting with an investor or prospective customer! Think about and establish a practical goal before initiating a conversation. Your goals need to develop next steps, set agenda for the next meeting and/or identify follow-up activities. Achievable goals steer conversation away from “hard sell” to relationship building.
Identify Goals of Others
Do your homework and listen carefully to identify goals of other participants. Conversations have many layers starting with your active current discussion and extending to internal but unspoken thoughts of each participant along with interactions and experience outside the current context. You will drive successful results by identifying and recognizing individual perceptions and concerns that form during your business conversations.
Have an Agenda
Strong agendas have three components: framing, discussion and action. Everyone needs to participate at some level, even when it may not be their meeting.
Frame conversation around desired outcomes and ensure participants are aligned on major goals.
Bring or develop discussion points that build a working relationship and achieve positive results.
Summarize with an action plan and confirm next steps and mutual commitments.
Listen to and Answer Questions Asked
Disciplined meetings based on goals, alignment and agenda create a back drop for the most important practice of all. Listen to and answer the questions asked, including those framed as statements. Business conversations gain value through mutual discovery leading to shared activities. You bring passion, strong opinions and instinct to persuade others about the intelligence, skill and value behind your concepts. Avoid debate.
Keep it Real
Our marketing driven culture encourages promotional behavior. Bring confident and positive leadership through honest positioning of yourself and your business. A proof of concept prototype will never be a field ready product. Always sell what you have!
Make Promises, Keep Your Promises
Transactions built through meetings, collaborative activities and conversation are the life blood of creative enterprise. Build your business path and conversations around crisp, clearly qualified goals and drive success by achieving milestones on or ahead of schedule!