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So what? Who cares? – The art of being relevant

When I first joined FileNet, in 2003, all new recruits attended a two-week intensive training course which, for the largest part of it, was a sales skills course. For those of us that were hired in a marketing or technical roles, that part of the course had relatively little relevance other than to empathise with the sellers and as a general skill of communicating with customers.

Nevertheless, everyone took away something extremely useful from the course: A prop! It was a simple piece of card paper (imagine an A4 cut in half lengthwise) which said on one side “So What?” and on the other .”Who Cares?” in bold red letters. The purpose of the card was simple: As we were listening to various roll-playing presentations, we could hold up the cards when the presenter was making irrelevant points or describing product functionality without relating it to the client’s problems. It was a signal to re-think the message and reduce the unnecessary waffle.

So What?” i.e. What is the point you are trying to make? How is this relevant to a business problem? What would the outcome be?

Who Cares?” – i.e. Why is this relevant to the person you are talking to? How does it relate to their work or their own personal targets of ambitions? Who in the organisation feels the pain from the problem that you are trying to resolve? Why should they care?

Surprisingly, nearly ten years later, I still find myself using regularly this simple mental test. Both for my own presentation content as well as when reviewing others’. I find myself applying this principle to presentations, marketing material, website designs and even reviewing customer requirements.  And I often introduce it to conversations with colleagues and with clients. For most of my FileNet colleagues the principle is very clear and familiar, and just mentioning “So what? who cares?” raises a knowing smile and often a review of the task at hand. When introduced to other people, the first response is usually one of shock: “How can you be so rude?”. But a quick explanation makes them realise that I’m not being impertinent, the questions are quite literal and should be answered. And, usually, they take the principle on-board which allows for a much more productive dialog.

Try it for yourself! Next time you are reading a white paper or a marketing brochure or an RFI/RFP/Proposal or even a newspaper article (especially a newspaper article!!), check each of the points made: Do they pass the “So what? Who cares?” test? If not, they are irrelevant waffle and should not be there or they are valid points which should be articulated differently. I promise you, it will make for much clearer, concise and effective communication.

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  1. Aik. Parapantaki
    October 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Kai pali bravo!!

  2. October 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    George, I remember this training well and to this day, I use the same props with my clients. This is a great way of getting marketing and sales to move from talking about product features and functions and get down to the benefits. You know you’ve finally got it right when the ‘so what, who cares’ comments no longer apply.

    • parapadakis
      October 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Isn’t it amazing how some simple concepts end up being so valuable? :-) Good to hear from you again Terry!

  3. Dan crow
    October 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    George, still uses as well, more since leaving IBM I remember as a pre-sales consultant we created a card for sales, attempting to promise the world. It was “your on crack!” And your on “your on crystal meth” Used that many times as well!

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