Why Should They Care?
If you’ve been in the professional world, corporate or otherwise, for any length of time, you’ve heard about the importance of communicating benefits. Maybe you’ve taken a class, or read a book, or heard a “sales-expert” speak. There’s likely a million articles out there making the rounds on social media. Communicating Benefits is one of those basic block-and-tackling skills that rarely gets taught in high school, or even college for that matter (like balancing a checkbook – what’s with that?), but something every professional needs to master.
The problem is that most of us understand the benefits-thing on a cerebral level. We understand that we should communicate them. We understand what to do. But like every skill, there’s a vast difference between logically understanding something and really “getting” on a deep internal level, why it matters and how to authentically, mindfully, and effectively do it.
I remember a few years ago, when I was shopping for a new sofa sectional. A sectional can be a pretty big ticket item, so you tend to get a lot of love from the furniture sales people. They, like many other professionals, had clearly taken something akin to Communicating Benefits 101 and I was the recipient of a number of sectional-benefit-monologues that hit all the highlights: comfort (you may never want to get up!), design (timeless!), durability (at the time my kiddo was 6 years old, so that one was a big deal). And even though they said the right things – they used the skill – it didn’t have the impact that they were hoping for. I didn’t buy.
It’s not unusual, especially for those of us who manage others (or parent for that matter), to fall into the furniture-sales-person-trap. We tend to get very focused on achieving the short-term goals in front of us and take what we perceive to be the fastest route to making stuff happen. We often say the right things but it’s not having the impact we’re hoping to have. People aren’t “buying”.
I was doing some work a while back with an organization that was quickly transforming from being a small company to a big company due to some major acquisitions. Change was happening at the speed of light. New processes and systems were being implemented left and right. Tensions were high. People were being told what to do. Leaders weren’t taking the time to communicate the benefits around why things were being done and why it matters to, not just the company, but to the individuals involved in the changes themselves. In other words, people didn’t know why they should care. So they didn’t. Care, that is. So the people implementing the change did the opposite. They did what they were told but were emotionally fighting it at every step – ensuring that it would take longer, be less effective, and much more costly.
I remember back as I wrapping up one of those dream projects at a different company, when I had the opportunity to work with the same 22 people every month for six months. At the end of our time together, during the final session as we were sharing around the room “biggest take-aways” and “what (they’ll) do differently” a young manager said, “My biggest take-away was the benefits thing. In the past, I didn’t really care why something was important to my team; I just wanted them to do their job. But now I realize that if I don’t care why should they?”
When it comes to communicating benefits, we can say the right things. We can do the right things. We can check it off the list. But understanding how to use the skill won’t get us there. We have to find a way to shift from logically understanding to really “getting” that if we as leaders don’t genuinely care, neither will they. Maybe authentically caring about what is truly most important to the people you want to have “buy (in)” is what it takes to really close the deal.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (originally posted in 2011)
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!