'Why ‘Facts’ Should Not Be The Focus In A Client Presentation/Report' from P31 Consulting, LLC

Why ‘Facts’ Should Not Be The Focus In A Client Presentation/Report

Posted: Jan 14, 2016

We all want our clients to react to our work and facts generally DON’T get anyone excited, no more than they generate feelings or reactions of concern. Why? Because facts are often boring unless the fact is that “you’ve won a million dollars in the lottery!” Even then, the ‘fact’ is not what gets you excited; it’s the implications of that fact to your life - now you can eliminate debt, buy a new home, be financially secure, etc.

Insights DO generate feelings because insights explain the meaning and implications of the data to the client given the client’s unique business interests and context. For example, let’s say your client is trying to determine if there is a significant competitive threat in a market and if so, the details of the threat. They ask you to collect data on the last four quarters’ market sales activity so they can assess the threat (yes, yes, you would do much more than this to assess a competitive threat but stay with me so I can demonstrate the importance of moving from communicating only facts to communicating insights!). You collect and share the following FACTS with your client:

- Client Product A sales ($) grew 4% in each of four quarters reviewed

- Competitor Product B sales ($) grew 1% in the first three quarters and 5% in the fourth quarter

- Competitor Product B implemented a 5% price increase at the end of the third quarter

Now read each of those factual statements out loud and ask yourself, “How might the client ‘feel/react’ if they heard these statements and looked at these graphs?” Given the client’s interest in understanding the competitive threat, you might answer that they’d have more questions about ‘why’ there was a spike in the competitor’s fourth quarter sales - was it due solely to the price increase, did they engage the market in other ways that might account for the increase, is the fourth quarter increase something I should be concerned about, etc.? Actually, their first question may be “Based on reported sales ($), does there appear to be a significant competitive threat or not?”

Why does the client have more questions? Because they heard facts, not insights. Insights would have provided understanding and meaning. Clients need to know what these facts mean or imply for their business and the business decisions they need to make.

Remember, your client wants and needs to feel something about the work that you’ve done to facilitate decision making. We’ve all heard someone say, “So, give me the good news!” People ask for good news because it makes them ‘feel’ good. The client also needs to react/feel before they can make a decision. If the results of your research suggest the evidence aligns positively with your client’s business objectives, you may want the client to feel optimistic, hopeful or excited after reviewing your report or hearing your presentation. The insights you include in this report should convey optimism. If the client feels optimistic, they may decide to use the most aggressive sales projections for planning. If the evidence aligns negatively with your client’s business objectives, you may want the client to feel cautious, concerned, or a sense of reservation. The insights you include in this report should convey concern. If the client feels concerned, they may choose to rely on more conservative projections.

I acknowledge that we may not always understand what the facts mean to our clients. There is insight in that as well. Sometimes we lack data, don’t know the data well enough or just can’t figure it out. In that case, run it by the client. Ask them what they think the implications are before you finalize the report. Tell them what you are seeing or what is trending and ask for their opinion. In other cases, the data is not robust enough for you to develop evidence-based, relevant conclusions. The data may simply be interesting, but its implications are unclear - tell the client, this is insightful in itself!

Developing and delivering insight is harder than delivering facts but sometimes lack of insight and client understanding stems from a lack of effort on our part. Developing insights requires an understanding of our client, their context, interests, problems and opportunities.  In today’s multi-tasking, time-crunched, data-rich world, we tell ourselves that we barely have the time to find, analyze and deliver the facts. We do ourselves and our clients a disservice stopping with the facts. Delivering insight does not have to be overly time consuming and difficult. By learning and practicing logical thinking & problem solving, insight development and storytelling skills, individuals and teams can deliver insight more efficiently and effectively.

Call to Action

In your experience, what have you learned about the dos and don’ts of sharing facts without insights? Let me know via email, Twitter or LinkedIn!


Tish Baldez (tish@p31-consulting.com)

P31 Consulting designs training and professional development programs that include onboarding through management/leadership skill development for small and mid-size growing firms. Contact us to learn how we help. 

P31’s most popular 2015 workshop

“Storytelling with Research Results and Data: Creating and Communicating Persuasive, Engaging Business Stories”

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