Heed the ADAP Advice!

As a Vistage Chair, I have the privilege of inviting expert speakers to share their insights at CEO workshops so members can use learned insights and skills to grow their companies faster.  Last month I invited Steve Yastrow to share his expertise on building a Unified Customer Experience for our customers , based on his experiences cited in two books, Brand Harmony and  We: The Ideal Customer Relationship. Our workshop focused on how companies can successfully create Brand Harmony in the minds of their customers by aligning the entire organization to tell one cumulative story that generates an excellent experience. 

This is more important than ever, because workers are distributed throughout several cities throughout the world but also often working from home and/or office. Given the division of labor, each is addressing a specific part of a transaction, and not the entire service encounter. Monitoring the tone and content of each person’s conversations with customers is extremely difficult. Yet it takes only one poorly executed aspect of the transaction (e.g., finding a customer service person; easy payment system) to ruin a positive experience that the customer had with everyone else.) 

During the presentation, he focused on a key point made in his other book Ditch the Pitch. All too often we prepare “scripts” for our sales and service staff, with the hope that they will dutifully present to the customer. His point is that the script – such as a recitation of features and benefits – is a one-way communication. A sales pitch is essentially the seller’s story; customers care about their own stories”. 

As Aristotle said, “the fool tells me his reasons. The wise man persuades me on his own.”

For two decades, we’ve been teaching the underlying secret of winning presentations:  a two part formula called: Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations (ADAP).

  • The first part refers to the need for a presenter to fully understand what the customer wants and needs, and what challenges need to be overcome to take action. Go beyond why she/he wants the service, product, or idea, and understand what constraints exist (e.g., time, money, other team members, etc.) that must also be resolved.
  • The second part refers to what happens in a mutual discovery process. The customer needs to see you as integral to getting what he wants: that someone she/he trusts is looking out for her/his interests. That happens when the presenter is authentic – genuinely cares about the buyer making the best decision. You build trust when you’re self-aware of one’s biases and overcoming them often with some transparency.

Steve’s Ditch the Pitch title shares his message: abandon a scripted sales-pitch and help the customer reach a conclusion based on collaborative dialogue.  Similarly, Presentation Excellence’s approach is to train presenters so they naturally ask the right questions that get to the core issues, and authentically engage in a mutual discovery process that leads the customer to trust you enough to make the buying decision.  


From a Brand Harmony standpoint, it means your entire team of people and tools (including website) need to be unified in communicating your authentic concern in creating a unified customer experience.   

(*Vistage is a 65+ year old leader development organization serving over 27,000 CEOs. D&B’s data shows they grew 2-3X faster than competitors; during the pandemic, members’ sales grew 4.6% vs. non-members who lost 4.7%. I serve two dozen CEOs in the New York area.)

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