You’ve done your initial meeting. You’ve done your investigations. You’ve written your findings. Now the last piece of the puzzle is how you present those findings, and recommendations, to the audit client.
In a perfect world, the client is receptive, understands each recommendation, and takes immediate corrective action.
But we all know that perfect world doesn’t exist.
So how can we hedge our communicative bets so that we come as close to that perfect scenario as possible? What tools can we employ to ensure that we’ve done everything we can to set the client up for success?
By understanding how the audit client is listening to you.
Of course how you’re listening to the client is important, but that’s not the focus here. Let’s flip the listening paradigm upside down and focus instead of how to tell how your client is listening to you.
In order to be able to move people to action, you need to know how people are listening to you. Are they listening for information, or are they listening for knowledge? The answer is the difference between action and inaction.
Instead of a goal of your report presentation is to provide information, think of your goal as asking the right questions and then providing relevant answers that drive the conversation away from merely giving facts or data points, and instead helping your audience envision the recommended change in their world. Anyone can read a report. Not anyone can put the information into a specific context that drives targeted action.
Here’s how you can figure out how your clients are listening to you and then let your expertise and hard work shine like it deserves—by changing the way people listen to you from listening for information to listening for knowledge.
Listening for Information
When someone is listening for information, they’ll very rarely follow-through. The only case where this isn’t the truth is if they’re just looking for one key piece of information to complete a puzzle.
When you’re communicating recommendations, think of asking questions that will move your audience members beyond the data that you’re presenting and into thinking creatively of how they might solve their own problems. Here are some starts to questions that could help.
- What do these numbers mean to…?
- What was the different between…?
- How did the change occur from…?
- What, in your opinion, caused…?
- Would you share with me what you think…?
What these questions will do is start helping your audience contextualize knowledge. They’ll stop going through the act of listening and move towards active interpretation. Once someone starts to put the data into real situations in their world, the impact becomes clear. And they’ll start to listen in a different way. They’ll start to pay more attention. They’ll start to listen for knowledge.
Listening for Knowledge
When people are listening for knowledge they’re actively processing and trying to make sense of what you’re saying and how it relates to their situation. You’ll know if someone is listening for information if they’re asking you questions that go beyond facts and figures and instead putting that data in a context.
When you’re presenting recommendations, it helps to get buy-in from the audience. One way to do this is to position your recommendations in their world, but in their words. You can do this by asking questions like the following:
- How would your business change if…?
- What would it look like if your organization used…?
- How would your job be easier if…?
- What would be the best outcome for you if…?
- How would you react if…?
- What would it take for this to work in your…?
- Can you see this working for your business?
- Do you see this solving your problem?
- Are you comfortable recommending this to …?
The other magical side to these questions is when you can get your audience to tell you what they’d do in situations that you’ve presented, using their own data. This is because people support what they help create. If you allow them to come up with the conclusions and recommendations before you present them, you’re then instead agreeing with them instead of directing them. It’s a subtle shift, but I believe you’ll find it will make quite a big difference.