Do your Customers Speak Vulcan

Have you ever presented a proposal to a prospect and they looked you at you as if you were Doc Brown in “Back to the Future” talking about needing 1.21 gigawatts to power the flux capacitor? All too often, we slip into speaking our own specialized lingo and assume everyone else knows what we’re talking about. But when it comes to business, it literally pays to be understood. I recently attended a seminar and the speaker asked everyone to raise their hands that was familiar with the topic.  At most a third of the room raised their hands. The presenter said great – we’ll move through this fast. They missed the point that almost 70% of the audience was there to learn and see if what they were offering was a fit. They went on to speak in code to the smaller part of the audience that felt like Vulcan for the majority! A lost opportunity by not connecting in the customers language.

Identify the Problem or Customer Needs – Always start with identifying the customer’s needs, wants and/or problems. No one woke up one morning and decided they needed an iPhone any more than Apple spontaneously created one to sell. As times changed and technology advanced, communication and entertainment could be found on the same device – and that device would fill the needs and satisfy the wants of record-breaking numbers of customers.

From a customer’s viewpoint, examine what challenges you’ll be easing and problems you’ll be solving – and how best to communicate those solutions. Sometimes, potential customers don’t even know what it is they need help with! That’s part of the business, because figuring out what exactly it is people need before they specifically know what to ask for leads to a thriving market for your product and/or service. It’s all about the customer, their needs, and how you can best help them.

Explain in Everyday Language – The ability to explain in everyday language is invaluable. Understand the language of your buyers, and communicate in a way that makes sense to them. The more loaded with jargon your proposals are, the less likely a layman is to listen to – or even trust – you. Be honest, and communicate clearly in plain language. If the topic is exceptionally complex, look for an analogy that helps explain it! Try explaining and teaching others before you try to relate the same information to customers. Perfect your pitch, evaluate your communication strategies, and double-check. If you can explain in under one minute, and your audience can understand and relate it back with clear understanding, then you’ve succeeded.

This is a scenario I use when coaching people on consultative selling: If you were selling ice cream, do you assume they want ice cream and simply ask chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla? Instead, how about starting off by asking if they had dinner and are they ready to discuss dessert. Before offering ice cream, think about possible interactions. Do we know if they even like ice cream? Are they perhaps lactose intolerant? As you ask probing questions you may discover they are just getting hungry and you have an opportunity to sell an appetizer vs jumping to dessert. I have used this successfully with technology companies versus getting into technical product jargon.

Test with a small group – If you think you have it “simple” test it with someone not familiar with your industry. If you can in under 1 minute explain – from the customer viewpoint – how you can help them – and then they can repeat it back with a clear understanding – you have success.  This is not as easy as it sounds and typically takes multiple iterations. Do not get discouraged. Spend the time to get this right.

Think Through – Speak the customers language – I can tell you for sure – it isn’t Vulcan! But making things clear isn’t always easy. The key is to have a thorough understanding yourself, to repeat and rehearse, and to make sure you’re also looking at things from the customer’s point of view. None of this is ever as simple as it sounds, but don’t get discouraged! Take the time to get this right, and you’ll be speaking the customer’s language in no time – and when the customer can understand you, they’re able to spread the word! The more complex the product, service or solution you’re selling, the easier it is to be tempted to dip into jargon and specialized language too often. Push hard to make your solution easy for others to talk about, and reap the rewards! Small business – live long and prosper!

Small Business

About the Author:

Gregory Woloszczuk is an Entrepreneur and experienced tech executive that helps small business owners grow their top and bottom line. Gregory believes in straight talk and helping others see things they need to see but may not want to with a focus on taking responsibly for one’s own business. He and his wife, Maureen, started GMW Carolina in 2006.
Gregory has been fortunate to have been part of building teams for companies that went through hyper-growth as well as his own company. He also has experience in working through economic downturns and taking responsibility to fix what is in his control. The focus has always been working with partners, customers, and building a successful business channel. His range of experience includes marketing, sales, support, training, and operations. Gregory holds an MBA from Nichols College.