Is this the right room for an argument?
A classic Monty Python sketch “Room for an Argument” is a great backdrop to this topic. Also, I recommend watching the sketch to enjoy the key exchange near the start of the video where John Cleese is half of the show — “Is this the right room for an argument?” “I told you once!” “No you didn’t” “Is this a 5 minute argument or the full half hour?”
This memory came back to me after returning to an article by Dr Michael Fullilove, “Men and women of Australia, these orations transformed the nation”. In this article Fullilove talks about great speeches and positions that “a speech is not a string of $10 words, but an argument.”
This made me reflect on the balanced approaches that I have been introduced to through numerous courses focused on participating in customer meetings and presentations. Fullilove’s article and specifically the grab that “a speech is not a string of $10 words, but an argument”, made me think about the passion that is embedded in an argument compared to the logic and construct of many typical customer meetings and presentations.
In the context of developing and delivering customer presentations over the last 25+ years I have had the good fortune to be exposed to a range of training and experiences both consumed and created, that were in the pursuit of compelling customer presentations.
The training has had different emphasis at different times but has invariably relied on a blend of:
- Customer knowledge and insight.
- Business drivers.
- Business pains.
- Industry trends.
- Business value.
- Call to action.
From my learnings and experiences I believed that a minimum requirement for any customer interaction includes:
- Granular pain within a business.
- A connection to their business objectives.
- The value of this pain being solved, or not.
- How I could solve the problem.
All good form and function but after reading Fullilove’s article I am left thinking that there is something more base and raw that needs to live in business meetings.
If this is true, the goal must then be to elicit emotion, not just intellectual engagement. All things being equal, this may be the most sustainable differentiation that a presenter can establish. An assessment of a presentation could be all shades of grey…an argument is real, whether won or lost.
To qualify a sales opportunity will typically follow more fundamental steps that bring together a mix of art and science. This mix will be weighted differently on different days.
So, as with canasta (a 3-pack card game), a customer engagement has multiple decks needing to be delivered, seemingly as a cohesive distribution.
Next time you have a customer meeting or presentation, give a thought to hosting an argument. Drawing on Fullilove’s article and a Python classic might make a difference.