How We’re Selling Our Online Training – Using Clean Language

We’ve been rushed off our feet for the last two months. We’ve worked with United Nations agencies, international NGOs, commercial businesses and lots of individual trainers, consultants and freelances to help them take their great-in-the-room events, meetings and training online.

It seemed unreasonable to say “no” to clients who needed what we had to offer – especially people working hard to reduce the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable – so we quickly pivoted our business from micro to mini, by joining forces with skilled friends and colleagues who we trained up to deliver our courses.

And, as soon as you add more people to a business, it’s probably inevitable that you add more potential for confusion. We’re not quite in the league of Brooks’s Law, “adding manpower to a software project makes it later“, but we’ve found ourselves needing to draw on our Clean Language skills increasingly frequently.

Take sales. Steve McCann has been using Clean Language in his sales calls for many years, making sure he asks lots of Clean and Cleanish questions to find out what potential clients really want before making any kind of offer. (He’s got a plan to build a Clean-based sales training based on the Collaborative Influence Cycle as soon as this rush is over.)

In the world of lockdown, though, it’s at a new level. Even more than usual, potential clients aren’t really clear what they want. And in all the rushing about, we’re often not super-clear about what we have to offer.

Somebody might email to say something like, “We’ve been recommended by your client so-and-so. We need your help to take our meetings/training/events online. It’s really urgent!”

Our response has to be the most common Clean Language question, “What kind of meetings/training/events?”

And as ever, we discover that a simple word like “meetings” has a subtly different meaning for everyone. We’ve even found plenty of meanings that sit outside Elise Keith’s brilliant Periodic Table Of Meetings. And the more meanings we find, the more we’ve been able to refine what we offer.

I’ve been aware for a long time of the value of using Clean Language questions to build up a persona or customer avatar. Now it’s happening in real-time, right before my eyes. When we choose to, we can incorporate language and metaphors observed from customers “in the wild” into our marketing materials. It’s interesting, fun – and apparently, pretty effective.

And once we have a sense of what kind of meetings the customer is talking about (and what kind of “really urgent”, too) we can get them onto a Zoom call and use other Clean Language approaches. For example:¬†

  • to find out more about the problem we’d be solving (gently building “away-from” motivation) we’d use more Developing Questions
  • to elicit their desired outcome, we’d perhaps use the Remedy Response, “And when you’ve had our help, then what happens?”¬†
  • we might listen for a metaphor for their desired outcome, and ask Developing Questions about it, to strengthen “towards” motivation¬†
  • to give us a set of clear success criteria, we might ask, “How will you know?”

Only once we understand where they’re coming from will we make an offer, if we really think we can help. “We don’t want bad business,” Steve says.

  • For you, a great online meeting is (or would be!) like… what? We’d love to know, so please comment below. And if you’re curious about using Clean Language in sales, let us know and we’ll hurry that course along.

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