September 2017

Dear Bettie:

During a recent presentation to my supervisor (the Dean) and me (Research Project Manager), software sales people began the meeting by defining data for us.  Perhaps they didn’t know they were meeting with seasoned research professionals!

They used several terms which certainly did not resonate within a clinical research environment. I was almost embarrassed for them.

Following our meeting, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. So I went to check out their online presence. I thought that perhaps their pitch would make more sense if I read more about them and their company. I found nothing…no website, no LinkedIn profile, nothing!

Having been raised by a marketer, I was taught to always know my audience. In high school and college, my mother said, “Know your audience. Your audience is your teacher. Develop a relationship with your teacher; learn what he or she wants. Deliver to that.”

I intentionally set out to understand each teacher’s perspective as a framework for all of my classes. I’ve used the same approach for job interviews, research projects and colleague relationships. I assumed all professionals approached business with a “know your audience” mindset.

Bettie, am I off base to wonder how these sales people even stay in business? We certainly won’t do business with them. Your thoughts?

Know Your Audience

Dear Know Your Audience,

You bring up two great points, relevant to workers across all generations. With instant access to information about people, companies and products, there isn’t any excuse for being unprepared for professional pitches.

WikiHow lists the following three steps in how to know your audience and communicate in a way that allows them to easily understand you.

#1: Use words and phrases your audience understands. Instead of using an acronym or technical jargon, use relevant words or phrases that your audience understands.

#2: Be concise and talk about what’s important to your audience. It is easy to talk at a level of detail that nobody can follow (or care about) except you. People typically only care that the overall process works, not the details of how it works. 

#3: Ask your audience what they want to hear from you. Ask how much detail your audience wants from you. This will not only help you earn their respect it also helps you stay on time and on track.

Your second point may be even more important: a digital footprint is essential to doing business.

According to Google, 88% of US customers research you online before they buy from you. Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT. If you do not have a digital footprint, a place where customers can find you online, customers will not buy from you.

Thank you for this important reminder of how to navigate business in the digital age.

Here’s to sound business practices online and offline.