Prednisone, a corticosteroid, is an effective treatment for a wide range of conditions from arthritis to cancers. It has side-effects, which vary by person and situation.
Imagine a television ad for Prednisone using this voiceover script:
“Prednisone may cause nausea, loss of appetite, heartburn, insomnia, acne, muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, blurred vision, weight gain, bloody stools, thinning skin, depression, puffy face, mood swings, increased blood sugar, rash, and swelling of the tongue.
Prednisone has a 62% chance of giving you arthritis relief. Talk with your doctor about Prednisone and start getting arthritic relief so you can enjoy life again.
Would you go ask your doctor for it? You’re unlikely to think, “Wow, it doesn’t cause dry mouth like all those other drugs do!”
There’s a reason to list solve-your-problem benefits first in the presentation. Sell the benefits and then work through the consequences. Anchor the prospect’s mindset with a positive outcome, then explain why the predictable problems are preferable to the current state.
Notice how the drug commercials speed-talk through the side effects with a slightly lower voice tone. It’s much harder to retain the details. This is a proven way to keep people focused on the benefits.
I’m not advocating you try to manipulate decision-makers, but leaders need to be persuasive. You should understand the human psychology of selling. Document the consequences of your recommendations, and be prepared to address issues. Do these things in a way which does not detract from the positive outcome.
Let me flip this around–someone is pitching you on a project. Listen for the side effects and consequences. Ask about them if they aren’t surfaced in the presentation. Challenge everything you sense is being minimized or marginalized. Leaders must understand the risk profiles of decisions. It’s never problem vs. no-problem; you’re deciding what set of problems you prefer. The problems of the future will come from the solutions we select today.
Presentation order matters to both the seller and the buyer. Leaders like you must become observant students of the art of presentation, to be more successful on both sides of the discussion.