Don't Sell. Educate.
I attended a conference in Seattle mid-October. One of the highlights was listening to Hans Melotte, the executive vice president of supply chain at Starbucks. He is kind, warm, fun and charming. He’s also very strategic and forward thinking. He believes in partnerships and value over price. Melotte was asked how his procurement team innovates. He said he has innovative people from innovative companies present to his team. These consultants are from a variety of industries—the key is that Melotte wants his team aware of and interacting with new and successful business ideas. He believes sessions like this will motivate his team and help them develop new ideas for Starbucks.
I really like the idea of using experts from a variety of businesses and business models to infuse life, creativity and innovation into a company. Instead of pitching my company to prospects, I’ve decided to have interactive, hour-long discussions about trends and innovation in print procurement. I’m holding my first Trends & Innovative In Print Procurement session with a marketing procurement team for a Fortune 100 company next week. The goal is to educate buyers about new and better ways to do their jobs, to increase efficiencies, to make things easier and to increase value. I also will talk about the impact of technology and outsourcing as a more forward-thinking way of doing business.
In preparing my presentation, I discovered a lot about my industry and myself. After hours of hard work, I learned the following:
1) Provide relevant statistics and data: I use simple and easy-to-understand graphs and charts. Numbers and data from reputable sources make content valid, sustainable and relevant.
2) Use pictures: One of my dad’s favorite words is “loquacious.” Great word. Look it up. Avoid being loquacious at all costs. I fear I’m being loquacious now. Long story short, I have a short attention span. If something is not interesting, my mind wanders aimlessly. Then I start checking my cell phone. Solution: Pictures and graphics illustrate points effectively. I get lots of good images for free online. The fewer words on my slides and in my speech, the better. One of the best presentations I ever attended was by a tech guy who used no words in his presentation—everything was conveyed via image.
3) Play a video or two: Videos are a great way to teach and keep people engaged. I try to incorporate at least one video in my presentations. It’s good to change up the pace and employ multiple vocals/voices. I select videos that have good music, which, by the way, appeals to the creative right side of our brains.
4) Make it funny: Humor sells. Humor can make dull subjects sharper and easier to comprehend. I try to be as funny as possible in my presentations. There is only one problem: I’m not a funny person. I ask others for joke ideas and I try to make clever analogies, or use funny examples to illustrate my points. So far, so good. No tomatoes have hit me yet.
5) Provide actionable take-aways: I give my entrepreneurial audience at least three ideas to implement at their company. Even if it’s just a shortcut, it can be helpful.
I feel I am more knowledgeable and competent because my focus has switched from selling to learning and teaching. I hope to be one of the experts Melotte (or any other executive) hires as a consultant. I hope to help others improve their business successes. In doing so, I hope to improve mine.
Sarah Scudder is president of Real Sourcing Network (RSN), has won many awards, writes for various publications and is an entrepreneur. Sarah’s desire is to make the world a better place. She is on her way.