Focus your pitch on the benefits, not the features

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Photo by: Ashton Mullins

Imagine you are an executive looking for strategies to move your business department forward. You schedule a meeting with business owners, organizational leaders, and other stakeholders and you are excited to hear about current and future projects. A PM comes in to talk about a website and says “The site will have a multi-layered architecture with hot standby facility.”

Pause to the PM story. We’ll have to travel back in time in Edwardian London, where a flower girl with an unintelligible accent, named Eliza, is taught how to speak like a lady. Don’t worry, we’ll be back into the PM story in a minute.

Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved. In the book, a flower-girl named Eliza Doolittle is metaphorically “brought to life” by a phonetics professor, Henry Higgins. She very much reminds me of the PM of our story. I wonder who is going to bring the PM to life.

Nothing is more important to the success of a project than effective communication. Within a diverse work group, like the one in the story, the wrong approach can create complex and challenging situations. Because people with varying perspectives and experiences have different meanings and contexts for words and phrases it is important to remember one thing.

Dining.

I like to think of dining when it comes to communication because I find similarities between being a good host and a good communicator. A good host shows consideration and is keenly attentive to the taste preferences of others. It’s the same with a good communicator. You have to bring to the table what others want to eat. And in the case of the PM story, the people in the meeting want to eat “benefits” and “value”. Not features.

If we want our message to be apprehended properly and our communication be effective, we have to show great consideration for creating the message, choosing channels of its transfer, a context, and also feedback.

Especially with business communication, dining becomes formal. There’s a protocol. When I think of formal dining, I think of the Queen.

When in doubt, follow the queue of the Queen.

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Is there a person more knowledgeable of the needs of shareholders other than the person initiating and directing the meeting? Now think of your Director as your Queen and follow the person’s approach because she knows best how to communicate with her court.

Finally, I think we all now agree that a PM who needs to develop her communication skills should start by assessing her table manners.

If you liked the Pygmalion, read more about mythological figures and project lifecycles in this article.

And more about Benefits Realisation Management and how this story started.

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Much of my job boils down to understanding and communicating the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. | Find me at zoetrope.gr

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