The importance of managing your message

Maxim #32
Manage the headlines

maxim_32This maxim refers to the critical need to recognize that people like to truncate concepts and presentations into short catchy sound bites. The very same way that news people throw a summary headline on the top of a news column. These “headlines” are what people remember and what they tend to repeat to others afterwards.

A top client gave us this advice as we were preparing to present some studies we had done on their sales organization to the board members. We had just shown him that the aggregate amount of time the sales reps were “actively selling” was only about 10% of their available time. He simply said, “you need to manage that headline. If that is the only thing people take away from the meeting it will be very difficult to get the Sales group on board.” This was an important insight because while the studies were accurate, it was also not the whole story. The sales people also spent about 20% of their time with clients developing relationships, which was also important. 30% of a sales person’s time with customers, when you accounted for the necessary travel time in the regions, wasn’t such a terrible time distribution. If we isolated the fact that only 10% of the time was actively selling, that headline might put the sales team in an unfair and uncomplimentary light.

So while it is important to have a few key points when you are presenting (a concept we discuss in another maxim), you need to be careful that you don’t inadvertently create headlines in the way you present or stress parts of the presentation.