A salesperson I was speaking with stopped short of saying that she was going to rehearse for an important call she needed to make to her dream client. She was embarrassed to use the word “practice.”
She was relieved when I told her that I write and rehearse the most important calls that I make to ensure that I achieve the outcome I need. Once I freed this salesperson from the potential embarrassment by admitting that I practice, she said: “I really like to practice what I am going to say before I have to say it.”
Thoughtful people rehearse for important conversations. It’s far more effective than winging it.
If you need to have an important conversation, deciding your outcome, preparing the points you want to make, and choosing the right words in advance can help you obtain that outcome. This is true whether it’s a meeting with your dream client or a meeting with your manager.
What Is the Outcome of the Conversation?
The choices of questions, statements, and words you use are all going to depend on the outcome you need from the conversation. Start with determining the outcome so you can make good choices about the content.
Do you want your client to give you an opportunity? What do you have to provide them with during this conversation to obtain that outcome? What should be prepared to answer?
Do you want a contact within your dream client to give you access to other stakeholders within their organization? What do you need to say to get them to say yes and let you pass?
Write your outcome down at the top of a piece of paper. Everything that follows must lead you towards that outcome.
What Points Do I Need to Make?
You need to make statements and ask questions to achieve the outcome you need from your conversation. What are those statements and questions?
What do you need the person you are speaking to know? What do you need them to do? Why do you need them to know this or do that?
Write down the statements you need to make. It’s important that you start with a strong opening statement that describes what you hope to get from the conversation. Write the opening statement first, and then make a list of bullet points to get started with the content of your conversation.
Rehearse the Conversation in Your Head
Being prepared for a conversation makes you look and sound confident. If you have command of the material, a prepared agenda, the right set of questions, and thoughtful points to make, you are better prepared to achieve your outcome. By rehearsing your plan in your head, you are much more confident when you have your big conversation.
Read the words you have written to yourself. Tighten them up. Make sure you are making the right points by reading them to yourself. Then rehearse them aloud.
Rehearse the Conversation Out Loud and Feel It
Rehearsing by actually saying the words out loud improves your confidence even more. If the conversation is really important, then speak the words out loud to some thoughtful person that can give you feedback.
Saying the words out loud gives you the opportunity to feel what it’s like to say the words. You get a feel the way the conversation might go, the questions that might naturally flow from a certain statement made a certain way. I can’t overstate how much confidence it builds to feel what it is like to say the words before you actually have the conversation.
Saying the words aloud will help you make changes. It gives you a chance to work on choosing the right words.
Choose Words That Convey the Right Message and Meaning
The words you use matter.
You might need to tell your client something like this: “We have discovered the problem and determined that it’s really your fault, not ours.” Those might not be the most diplomatic words you could use, and it might not get you the exact outcome you need. Saying these words out loud gives you the opportunity to gauge what the words might feel like to you—and to the person to whom you are speaking.
By saying the words above out loud, you might conclude it is more effective to say something like: “We discovered the source of the problem. It looks we might need to give some of your people a little additional training on using this equipment.” Same sentiment, minus the judgmental and adversarial connotation.
Choosing the right words can make all of the difference in whether or not you achieve the outcome of your important conversation. Practice gives you the chance to discover what it feels like to say and hear the words you are using.
As Planned, But Prepared for It to be Otherwise
It’s amazing how closely your rehearsed conversations track your rehearsal. If you rehearse the conversation in your head and out loud, including answers to the questions you are likely to get, you’ll be shocked at how closely your actual conversation resembles your rehearsal. And, when you are surprised by a question, it’s helpful to have your talking points to fall back on.
Have you ever been in a conference room presenting, taking tough questions from contacts within your dream client’s company? Don’t you love the give and take of being asked challenging questions and giving the thoughtful, smart, deal winning answers?
The reason you are so confident is that the answers to those questions aren’t new content that you are creating on the fly. The reason you are confident is that you have answered these questions many times before, you have made good language choices, and you have rehearsed your statements.
Prepare for your biggest, most important conversations the same way: rehearse.
How do you prepare for important conversations?
What could you gain by spending 20 minutes preparing for an important conversation?
Why does practicing or rehearsing embarrass some people?
How confident and comfortable are you with the material you know best?