Last week I attended my youngest daughter’s college graduation. This was the third graduation ceremony I have attended, and I was struck by how similar they all were. What’s worse, they all reminded me of bad sales calls.

To begin with, the ceremony started late and, when it did begin, it included 15 minutes about the college and its successes. This was followed by the introduction of the college president, including five minutes of his achievements. I will admit that the president’s speech was good, although less than a week later, I can’t recall a single word of it.

Next was the keynote speaker, who also had a five minute introduction. He read directly from notes, failed miserably in his attempts at humor and had not even graduated from the college.

By this time, the audience was getting fidgety — very fidgety. The impatient students began texting on their phones. Parents were engaged in the same behavior, perhaps texting their kids.

The only thing the audience members wanted to see — their children and grandchildren receiving their diplomas — was withheld. Instead, there were more formalities to work through:

  • Recognition of an instructor who had retired after more than 40 years of service
  • Introduction of the 10 faculty members on stage
  • The “rules” of the ceremony

Finally, the actual graduation began. It wasn’t the most interesting activity listening to hundreds of people being named and watching them proceed across the stage, but knowing that my daughter would eventually join their ranks made it tolerable. Finally, almost two hours later, my daughter received her diploma. Whew! We were done!

Well, not quite. There were still several speeches to sit through (the valedictorian, an alumni representative and a few others). The ceremony finally ended — almost 45 minutes behind schedule — and was not a positive experience for the students or their families.

Many sales calls have the same impact. We bring too many people to some sales calls. We spend too much time talking about things that are not relevant to our prospect. We go over our allotted time. And we leave our prospects with a less-than-positive impression.

Don’t make the mistake that many colleges make during their graduation ceremonies. Stand out from your competition by focusing on what is important to your prospect — to the exclusion of all else.

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