The customer is always right. That is what we are taught in Business 101. Of course, we know it is not the case. Yet it is an important element of business acumen. As important as ‘know your customer’ and many others we all seek to keep in mind when interacting with prospects and customers alike.
In the pursuit of understanding, business meetings occur in which there is a presenter and an audience seeking to learn something of value from the presentation. Presenters, whether the business owner themselves, a product specialist or a marketing agent, must be thoughtful regarding their words and actions in meetings. Meetings are often both hard to come by and one shot opportunities to advance the ball. Having attended thousands of investment management marketing meetings over the years, there is one word that is too often utilized and should never be uttered. “Again.”
What does ‘again’ mean to the listener? In our experience, what the presenter is trying to articulate is that they have already answered the question, already explained the premise, already presented the material. It is, in fact, an indictment on the recipient’s listening skills. The attendees for whom the meeting was established, are poor listeners or simply ‘don’t get it’, right? In other words, when carefully considered, it is almost always a sign of frustration or a defense mechanism related to a question we really don’t want to answer fully. More importantly, what the listener hears is “you either aren’t listening or you don’t get it and either way I’m annoyed with the prospect of trying to explain it to you AGAIN.” However, what the listener is often politely asking, when they ask something ‘again’, is for the answer they didn’t get the first time. Presenters are often adept at not answering key questions when the key question is on a subject that isn’t the greatest strength of the product, offering or organization offering it. Good audiences are equally as adept at reading through incomplete answers (or lack of substance in an answer) and doubling down to get the information they need to make an informed decision about an opportunity presented to them.
Presenters beware, ‘again’ will not advance your cause. What will is taking the opportunity to make the conversation a bit lighter AND to reinforce something you’ve already said, but clearly not said succinctly enough. For example, “that is a great question, Bob, and clearly it means that I didn’t explain myself very well earlier. Let me be sure I answer your question fully this time. [Answer]. Does that answer your question?” Presenters can often take advantage of questions asked ‘again’ in preparing for their next presentation. Something that is being raised repeatedly surely needs more direct coverage in the core presentation and/or a more succinct prepared answer that fully answers the question. This will reduce frustration for everyone and ideally avoid hearing ‘again’ ever again!