I recently  ran a sales workshop for lawyers from a successful Chicago firm. One of the attorneys said, “I have a hard time explaining what I do.  It’s pretty technical, and by the time I finish describing it I’ve usually confused the person.”

In response, a more senior lawyer, who also happens to be one of the biggest ‘rainmakers’ at the firm, said, “If someone asks me what I do, I just say that I’m a lawyer.  I don’t offer any details. Then, they usually ask me to tell them more.  At that point, they’re interested, so I can give them some more information.”

The Second City Almanac of Improvisation says “the more you tell the audience, the less they can imagine.” (page 160)  This is a wonderful maxim for sales and marketing.  Brochures stuffed with copy, hour-long fact-filled presentations, massive PowerPoint decks … they’re all based on the idea that the job of sales and marketing is to explain a story to customers.

But explaining a story is usually not best the best way to communicate that story.  In order to communicate successfully, it is important for the customer to become engaged in the story, and a monologue won’t engage her.  A dialogue in which she participates has a much better chance of engaging her and creating successful communication.

Resist the temptation to explain.  Remember that your customer isn’t all that interested in your story, and so a detailed explanation is likely to lose her attention.  Make it easy for her to participate in the conversation.

View your sales and marketing interactions not as opportunities to explain your story but as opportunities to engage your customers deeper. Don’t over explain … and give your customers a chance to imagine.

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