The Power of One

By Heather Baldwin

You’ve probably got a lot to say about your product or service: How fast it moves. How durable it is. How satisfied your customers are. Doubtless you’ve thought the more great things you say about what you have to offer, the more likely your prospects will be to buy it. In fact, the opposite is true, points out Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible (Warner Books, 1997). Instead, the more your presentation tries to convey, the less your audience will remember. Next time, he says, concentrate on driving home a single, critical message and you’ll be more likely to make an impact. Here’s why.

The cocktail party phenomenon. Imagine you’re at a cocktail party listening to someone who is talking to you, when suddenly you hear your name mentioned in a nearby conversation. If you’re like most people, you’re now trying to hear that conversation while still trying to listen to your own conversation partner. The result? You miss them both. “People cannot process two conversations at once,” says Beckwith. “If you deliver two messages, most people will process just one of them – if that.”

The grocery list problem. Your spouse calls and asks you to pick up milk on the way home. No problem, right? You can remember that. But what if you’re on your way home and you are asked to also pick up raisins, eggs, milk, cat food, Windex and diapers? You’re driving so you can’t write it down. In the end, you remember everything but the milk, even though the milk was the most important item. Presentations are similar. When your presentation includes a grocery list of messages, your prospects might remember the cat food, which isn’t all that important, and forget the milk. “Your prospects may forget your real point of distinction and remember a supporting message that hardly matters,” says Beckwith. “Saying many things usually communicates nothing.”

Your favorite song. How did you get to know your favorite song so well? Probably like this: You heard it on the radio one day and noticed you liked it. You heard it again the next day and caught the title and artist. You heard it again that evening and maybe sang along to the refrain. Eventually, you may have purchased the CD and, after several playings, learned all the words. It took seven or eight repetitions for the song’s message to sink in, but it finally did. The same holds true in sales presentations. After you say it, repeat it again and again. It’s not enough to just say one thing, says Beckwith. You have to support it, prove it and highlight it over and over again. Only then will your prospects really remember it.