Stacey Hanke

By Stacey Hanke

Five Questions In Five Minutes: How To Close The Deal And Connect With Your Audience

Five Questions In Five Minutes: How To Close The Deal And Connect With Your Audience 150 150 Stacey Hanke

Years ago, before I began my own business, I worked for a large manufacturing company. Each quarter, a group of leaders would meet with the chief financial officer to get a financial update. She would show slide after painful slide filled with financial figures so small that everyone in the room would squint. “I know you can’t read this, but …” she would always say as she continued the torture.

I can remember stopping to evaluate the room. I glanced around and witnessed some people completely tuned out, focusing on their phones. Others were writing notes to one another, and some were carrying on sidebar conversations. None of us were connected to what the CFO was sharing. Despite her lofty title and brilliant, financially focused mind, none of us could understand a thing she said.

Our CFO might have been an amazing presenter to a room full of other financially minded professionals, but to the rest of us, she missed the mark. She didn’t know her audience. She assumed we knew what she was trying to say, yet she never attempted to engage or interact with us. She essentially stood in the front of the room and had a conversation with herself while the rest of us watched. Her message didn’t stick. As a result, she lacked influence.

Before you engage with an audience, you must understand them and prepare your message accordingly. It’s critical to think through who they are and create your material to meet their needs. Walk in their shoes to understand their pain points and priorities. Whether you’re a sales professional trying to close a deal or an executive working to inspire employees, you must prepare first.

We’ve all heard, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Your audience likely won’t forgive your mistakes if they can tell you didn’t prepare. If you want to influence listeners to act upon what you say, preparation is key.

I can hear you now: “But I don’t have time to prepare for every interaction, Stacey!” I get it. Almost every professional I know is overworked and overscheduled. The good news is that you can prepare by thinking about your audience’s motivation, and it only takes five minutes. The connection you make with your audience will save you time in the end and create momentum in their actions and your relationship.

Imagine you are a sales professional trying to close a deal. If you knew it would only take five minutes to prepare before your customer interactions, and that would save hours of follow-up, clarification, and answering questions, wouldn’t you find the time?

Answer these five questions in five minutes to influence and connect with your audience:

1. Who are they? Know who is attending your gathering: executives, decision-makers, midlevel managers or entry-level professionals. What departments do they work for, and what are they responsible for overseeing? Consider as much as necessary. Mentally dive into who they are and what they are responsible for knowing.

2. What do they know about your topic? Understand what your audience already knows about your topic and how much more they wish to know. This helps you understand where to start. For instance, if your audience is well versed in your topic, it won’t bode well to explain entry-level information. Knowing who they are will help you also gauge the level of expertise they have on your topic.

3. What is their attitude? It’s important to understand their disposition coming into your meeting. Are they reluctant to meet with you or eager to hear what you have to say? Is this just another meeting or sales pitch, or are you providing them with a solution to an issue they’ve been struggling to fix? This is a great way to determine how best to approach your listeners.

4. What do they need to know? If you are selling technical equipment but your audience is a room of financial professionals, don’t dive into the inner workings of your gadget. Don’t waste time on details that aren’t important to their position, role and responsibility. Speak to what matters most to their role, what will benefit them and make their job easier. Seek to understand what challenges they face and how your idea can help them overcome their struggles.

5. Why is this conversation happening now? Did you solicit the meeting? Is it routinely scheduled? Or did your audience request the gathering? Understanding the timing of your meeting will also help you understand the sense of urgency and priority of your topic. If your meeting is routinely scheduled like mine was with the CFO, you’re going to have to work hard to earn their attention while avoiding ho-hum repetitiveness.

Five minutes is all it takes to answer these five questions to help you best prepare for your audience interaction. Connect with others and create momentum from the conversation by understanding their motivations and needs. Whether you’re closing a deal or trying to motivate your employees to be more productive, understand their needs first, and influence them to act with these five simple questions.