This flabbergasted me. An email from a real estate agent I met once, a year ago or more. The subject line: “How I Work.”

You might be wondering why I would care how this young woman works. It’s a good question. She should have asked that question herself!

Anyway, here’s what landed in my inbox, in its entirety:

Dear Catherine,

There are many qualities and skills that go into being an excellent real estate agent. From experience, I’d say the most important is the ability to discover and address the diverse needs and concerns of my clients.

Being able to listen and respond to my clients’ needs is the essence of good service, and everything I do serves this objective.

So if you’ve given any thought to moving, or if you know of any family, friends or work colleagues who are considering a move, please contact me anytime.

Thank you,

You know I’m a stickler for focusing on your listener when you speak. And on your reader when you write. Why? Because people don’t care who you are or what you do until you give them a reason to care.

Did “There are many qualities and skills that go into being an excellent real estate agent” give me a reason to care? It did not.

Here’s why this is so important, whether you’re sending an email or giving a talk or starting a conversation at a lunch meeting.

You want as much of your listener’s attention as you can get. You want to keep their attention as long as you can. And you have so much competition.

People are busy; there’s a lot on their mind. The main thing they’re concerned about at any given moment is their own situation, the problems they face, the plans they’ve made. Notice that none of those things have much to do with you and your business.

So what happens when you launch into an explanation of your field? Or how talented you are? Or how passionate you are about your work?

That’s right. They drift away. Their eyes glaze over. They shift their weight between their feet or check their watch or fidget–if you’re paying attention, you’ll see the signs that you’ve lost them.

Much better to begin by mentioning the pickle they’re in or the problem confronting someone they care about. Demonstrate that you understand their situation. That you care about them. That’s how you capture attention and make them want to know more instead of making them want to escape as quickly as they can.

Lots of professionals make this fundamental mistake; real estate agents aren’t the only ones that get it wrong, by any means. But they do come up in my workshops fairly often. Because they offer such good (and frequent!) examples of what not to do when you talk about your work and the value you offer.

We’ll cover some of those other mistakes down the road.

For now, here’s the big thing: When you communicate with potential clients or customers, focus relentlessly on them.

Talk about the Pickle they’re in. Tell them what the Promised Land looks like. THEN lay out your Path to the Promised Land…and save the details until they ask for them.

Post a comment and tell us how you’ll use your relentless focus on the other to promote your business or your big idea.