As sales people, you know how much fun it is calling on technical folks. If you don’t know your stuff, the techies will toss you around like a couple of orca whales tossing their prey before they eventually decide to eat you alive for your lack of technical knowledge. So if you are “spieling the sales spiel” without understanding one word of what it really means, do yourself a favor. Stop. Run your spiel by an internal technical colleague first. Figure out what the marketing folks (the ones who wrote your corporate messaging) have you saying. Because you know that the marketing folks didn’t bother to vet the scientific logic of their wordsmithing before they got creative.
Welcome to my world. It’s a world where word choices are important. It’s a world where customers listen to every word you say – to make sure it makes sense to them. I work with manufacturers, academicians and technical entrepreneurs. I blog for sales engineers, manufacturers, and technical start-ups. I read technical journals and engineering blogs. For fun. Really.
Some of my best friends are engineers, as well. And news flash: they don’t turn off their quest for logic when they leave the lab, either !
Sounds like knowing techies in their offline world still is a lot of work, doesn’t it? Not really. But it will change your communication patterns, permanently.
For example, the simple phrase: “Can I do something differently with that thing that hangs down from that wire there….” becomes: “Can I change the placement of that splitter for the phone line into the fax machine.” Take something like the art of eyeballing for purposes of picture hanging; not so in the world of an engineer. It is no longer a matter of: “I think that picture will look good right there (I am pointing to a spot on the wall), what do you think?” Instead, out comes the tape measure. Full measurements are made of the total floor to wall dimensions, both horizontally and vertically, the picture dimensions, the distance from the top of the extended wire on the back of the picture compared with the estimated placement of the picture hook on the wall, and the calculation of the placement of the hook relative to the limits of the extended picture wire, in comparison to the overall picture as well as wall dimensions.
Gee, and I always thought I did a fairly decent job eye-balling things and being generally specific, sort of.
For those of you who feel you do a fairly decent job explaining yourself during your sales conversations, the precision and specificity of word choice when speaking with your technical colleagues can become annoying and frustrating. It seems like you are constantly being interrupted and asked to explain what you mean. Rather than eye-rolling or totally avoiding selling to these individuals, take out your “mental tape measure” and apply that perspective to your discussions.
I recommend the following:
- Slow down; think before you speak. Just what were you going to say, anyway? If you are in the process of closing a technical sale, even if you have a sales engineer with you to “translate,” you still need to communicate to everyone seated around the table. Just what were the exact dimensions of that picture (your solution) that you want to hang? Make sure the deliverables your engineers execute in-house are accurate, based on specifications you have identified during customer conversations and contract negotiations.
- Your words are your sales specifications. They are important. Exclude imprecise buzz words or sales lingo. If you can’t design a product, service, or platform based on the words you commonly use, then eliminate those words from your vocabulary. Be succinct, specific, concise.
- Words are precise. Do more with less. Is there one term that encompasses a whole slew of “talking around the subject” words? Find out what that one term is. Use it frequently. Are there other terms that you have been mis-using, and therefore mis-communicating? It’s never too late to start relearning vocabulary. Throw in a few technical terms as well, providing you’ve vetted your delivery with one of your technical colleagues. It’s not that hard to do.
Try out this strategy on your next sales call to a manufacturer or technical company. You will find the dialogue becomes a different, more productive, and far more enjoyable one than your normal status quo sales spiel. Let me know how it goes.
Babette Ten Haken blogs about sales, manufacturing, engineering, entrepreneurships and start-ups at Sales Aerobics for Engineers® Blog. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, teaches technically oriented companies to have customer conversations that are productive and drive revenue. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Communication, Business Development and YOU, is available on Amazon.com. You can download a free chapter here.