Most of the organizations I work with are very high performance organizations. They have great products, great sales people, and provide solutions that can have great impact on their customers. However, in meeting with them, I often hear, “Our customers just don’t get it, they don’t see the impact we produce! How do we get them to better understand?”
The challenge, time after time, is that we have great products that solve important customer problems. But we express those problems that we solve in our terms—using our language. Because we are sophisticated it has to include at least one really cool acronym, and if we are in high tech it should mention social media or at least a cloud or two.
But our customers see things differently, they don’t talk like we do. They express their problems in different terms–their terms. (Why are we surprised by this?) We tend not to connect with customers because we are speaking different languages. We see the same problems, but from different points of view. We actually can solve their problems, but the customers don’t know it. Putting myself in customers’ shoes, often, I read the marketing materials or listen to sales presentations and feel like they are speaking Swahili and I only understand English. Why can’t they speak my language and talk about things that I worry about?
I had a great conversation with a talented sales professional the other day. He was lamenting on the same issue. He said, “I know how to ask the most powerful open ended questions about this problem (Imagine one that you solve for customers). Their response is always ‘I don’t have any issues with that,” or ‘Huhhhhhhhh?????????? What’s that mean???'” Since he is a great sales person, I asked, “How do you connect with your customers and get them to understand?” He replied, “Unfortunately, I have to take all our presentations and change them. I know what their hot buttons are and the terminology they use. When I use those, they immediately understand what I’m talking about. I explain our products in their words and we connect.”
Many years ago, I managed a team selling CAD/CAM software. Our sales people spent a lot of time talking to automotive designers about “flow lines.” Those car designers, really got what we said and liked our products. We ran into trouble when we went to the airplane companies. We started talking to them about the tremendous capabilities we had with “flow lines” and their engineers said, you don’t solve our problems, we care about aerodynamic wing surfaces. It turned out our capability in flow lines was the same capability the aeronautical engineers needed for aerodynamic surfaces, we just were explaining it in terms that had no meaning to them. We almost lost some very large sales because those customers didn’t think we could solve their problems!
Sales becomes very easy when we start thinking like our customers. When we use the words they use, rather than our words for expressing a problem or discussing a concern, we immediately connect. Marketing has higher impact when we are using the language of our customers. Brochures and materials in Mandarin, probably don’t have a great impact in Mexico. Likewise, if our brochures are filled with our pet phrases, cool buzz words, or neat acronym’s. Marketing materials that talk about what we do in the customer terms have great impact.
Doing this effectively creates a great challenge for sales and marketing professionals. We can no longer be satisfied with a “one size fits all approach” to our customers. We have to tailor strategies, programs, materials to our high priority market segments. We have to be knowledgeable of their problems, goals, and challenges—in their terms. We have to present our capabilities, addressing the issues they view as important, using the language they use.
Use the customer’s terms and language. Focus on the customer perspective and connect. It seems so simple (maybe too simple), but we consistently fail to do this. We focus on what’s important to us, we impose our language on the customer and expect them to do the translation for themselves. Imagine what could happen if we changed our point of view and aligned it with our customers’. We might be able to sell a lot more—-more efficiently.