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The Transition Sandwich

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 18/02/2016 Rob Jolles
INTERVIEW JOB © ONOKY - Eric Audras via Getty Images INTERVIEW JOB

Through the years, I've upset my share of audiences by telling them how overrated product knowledge really is. Product knowledge allows you to competently provide another individual with your solutions to their questions, but it doesn't necessarily allow you to dazzle them with your response. When you are communicating with others, a solution may show your intellectual competence, but it doesn't necessarily show your warmth, or speed of thought. For instance, a typical exchange may sound something like this:
"We're excited about the training you are intending to provide, but one of our concerns is making sure whatever processes we put in place, are fully implemented. What does your company do to help the organizations you work with adapt and utilize the solutions you provide?"
That's a question I happen to enjoy answering. When a potential client asks a question like that, it shows me that the organization has its priorities in order. So, I rattle off my #1 answer:
"We have several ways of protecting your investment in this training program, and I'm referring to the following: During the training, we use real-world applications, and after the training, we offer job aids for those participants who are still learning the process we introduced during the training. We also offer implementation workshops for management, so the managers can fully participate in the adaptation of what's being taught."
How did that sound to you? To me, it sounded a little sterile. The answer isn't necessarily wrong; it just doesn't have any energy to it. Rather than jump right into a response, take a moment and provide a simple, thoughtful transition. To the person you are speaking to, this shows a degree of mental agility and poise. Providing a transition into your answer also warms up the answer you are about to provide:
Transition In: "I wish every client would ask that question. We take implementation as seriously as you do. We don't want the information we deliver to become a victim of what we call a 'flavor of the month' solution."
Now, with a transition like that, your response will sound a little warmer and more authentic. However, we're not done yet. Once the solution has been stated, it's just as important to have a strong finish. That's where a "transition out" (meaning after the solution) becomes important.
I unconsciously stumbled upon this transition during a radio interview with one particular radio host, a person who is almost as intense as I am. Because we weren't in the same studio, this radio host couldn't see me as I spoke. He had no idea when I was done with my answer to his questions. As a result, he would frequently talk over me because he just didn't know when I was finished; he didn't want to leave dead air time if I had completed my answer. To address this, I began to provide a transition that wrapped up my response when I was finished. I also learned it was effective if I slowed down a bit, and dropped my voice while delivering the last couple of words:
Transition Out: "So you see, Jim, to protect that investment, we aren't really treating this event as a training session. We are treating it as a cultural change within your organization, and I'm going to be here to make sure you are able (begin slowing down and dropping voice here) to do just that."
When you put the solution together with the two transitions before and after, the full response sounds like this:
"I wish every client would ask that question. We take implementation as seriously as you do. We don't want the information we deliver to become a victim of what we call a 'flavor of the month' solution. We have several ways of protecting your investment in this training program, and I'm referring to the following: During the training, we use real-world applications, and after the training, we offer job aids for those participants who are still learning the process we introduced during the training. We also offer implementation workshops for management, so the managers can fully participate in the adaptation of what's being taught. So you see, Jim, to protect that investment, we aren't really treating this event as a training session. We are treating it as a cultural change within your organization, and I'm going to be here to make sure you are able (begin slowing down and dropping voice here) to do just that."
There's a level of personal style applied to this response, and the personality of the individual you are communicating with certainly needs to be factored in here, but the important pieces are in place. There's a transition into your solution, a credible answer to the question, and then a transition out with a voice drop in the final few words. All of this takes less than 45 seconds.
It's natural to focus on solutions, and doing so allows you to do a good job providing answers to questions you may be asked. My suggestion is that dazzling another individual with your solutions is less significant then you might imagine. When you can transition into your answer, and then have a transition after your answer, you've created a "Transition Sandwich." By doing this, you've just moved your answer from good to great!

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