Editor’s note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. His columns appear on Wednesday.

RALEIGH – With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, my executive super-skill is getting people to listen – identifying what my audience wants and effectively communicating how we can work together as partners for a mutual win. When someone doesn’t want to talk to me, how do I work to change their mind? How do I convince them to return my call? The simple answer is that I show them quickly how what I’m saying will help them get the things they want. 

In my early career as a sales professional, I learned how to take the personal feeling out of rejection and sharpen my message for consistent success. Selling requires practice, courage and patience. Over time, it teaches you to be resilient, confident and concise. If I tried to connect with a customer and they didn’t want to hear the pitch, my first step would always be to re-examine my message. What did I do in those first few interactions that kept them from listening? I didn’t even get a chance to talk about the product, so the problem must be my communication.

Here’s the important part. Everyone you know is selling something every day, whether it’s a vision for the future, a request for promotion or an appeal for our kids not to interrupt Zoom calls. Knowing how to craft a value message is not a sales-specific skill. It’s relevant and necessary for every part of our lives. 

Donald Thompson: How you can win despite all the chaos

What you want to do is take advantage of the brain’s preference for storytelling and craft a narrative that is personalized, evidence-based and true. Your message will only be successful if your audience can see what’s in it for them and if they know that you’re working for mutual benefit, not just talking at them to get what you want. When you want to craft a killer value proposition, here are my principles for honing your message to make sure every person you’re speaking to will take the time to listen. 

  • Evidence

Everyone has a different level of risk tolerance, which means everyone will need a different amount of evidence. Forbes calls this The Marketer’s Dilemma. “To offer customers what they want, even if they do not yet know they want it, it is essential to have a granular understanding of your customers and their unique needs.” 

Start by gathering evidence from third party experts that will prove your point. That means you have to do your research. Know the benefits and risks of what you’re selling and learn as much as you can about who you are selling it to. Remember what you learned in school about quality resources. Some websites and data are better than others, so make sure to source well. There’s so much information at our fingertips now; you can almost prove anything. You want to show your audience that you know the scene and that you’re only relying on authoritative sources. 

As you build momentum, start to use your own internal evidence and data. If I’m asking you to invest in my new startup, for instance, I have to show you what I’m already doing: what impact and successes I’ve already had. Leverage your own expertise and experience as evidence. 

  • Insight

Explain what you will add to those third party resources. Tell your audience what they stand to gain from you and no one else. What can you teach them? Where do you see their biggest strengths, risks and opportunities? How are you going to make their world better? This is where you get to show how you are innovating and what makes you different than anyone on the market. 

What we know about the sales cycle is that people want more detailed and more customized information as they move deeper into the process. This is where it’s most important to have sales and marketing alignment. As Entrepreneur Magazine points out, your marketing team is your best resource for granular data on specific audiences, messaging and platforms. 

  • Prescription

Now that your audience can see the problem you’re solving for them, it’s time to show the best solution. How do you recommend that they move forward? Your prescription should be action-based and strategic. Give them a call to action. Accenture recently touched on this topic in their report about reshaping interconnected value chains. They wrote “while businesses today may collect vast amounts of data, what’s crucial is to translate this data into insight-driven decisions.” 

We say this every day at The Diversity Movement, but raising awareness does not organically stimulate action. Just because you have changed someone’s mind does not mean you have changed their behavior. Spell out the next steps for them, reiterating what the evidence shows about why each step is important.  

  • Motivation

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle is fairly famous now but if you haven’t heard it recently, the central idea is this: know your who, what and how but focus on the why. Communicating the why — the vision behind your movement and action — creates a sense of momentum and camaraderie. Lend your audience a slice of that vision. Help them connect to it and feel inspired by it so they want to be a part of what you’re doing and get on board for a brighter future.

It is human nature to resist change. Even after we’ve begun a transition, we all have a tendency to drift back to safety and assume the status quo. Understanding why change is important and how it will build a better future helps to keep us moving forward. It’s easy to keep focused when things are going well; vision keeps us motivated even in the hard times. 

  • Measurement 

Your audience will want to know how you plan to measure success. How long it will take to see a difference, and how much do they stand to gain from their investment? This is where you need to understand Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Return on Investment (ROI). Show them how you know that the thing you’re selling will actually make a difference in their business or their lives. What data will you track, and how will you use it? Be specific about goals and timelines so you can manage expectations that are fair and truthful. 

I believe that getting people to listen means you have to do the listening first. If you understand your audience, what they want and how they think, you can motivate almost anyone to join you as a partner. Sell the story and the vision with authoritative evidence and measurable data that support your call to action. If you can do that, every person you talk to will take the time to listen. 

About the Author 

Donald Thompson began his career in sales and technology, moving quickly to the C-suite at age 36. Donald is now CEO of Walk West, a digital marketing firm, and co-founder of The Diversity Movement, a technology-driven diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy. He is a serial entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, and Executive Coach. He is also a board member for several organizations in healthcare, technology, marketing, sports and entertainment, a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE), and a thought leader on goal achievement and influencing company culture. Connect with Donald through LinkedIn or at donaldthompson.com