The Aggressive Sale Doesn’t Sell

Cold calling, and the younger, less effectual brother to it – cold emailing, are undoubtedly a part of selling and building a customer portfolio. They can’t all stop. But what needs to, and needs to maybe twelve emails ago, are the many, many, many phone calls (and subsequent voicemails) and the dozens of “follow-up” emails sent every 24 hours to merely gauge interest in Product X.

It doesn’t work, not for me. It must work sometimes, on someone, but after 3 neglected voicemails, no returned calls, no read-receipts, no replies, I daresay it’s time to consider me lost.

People have different means of finding the products and services they need. I make my team members identify 3 different options from research for every project we have, and we make a choice based on the visible reputation of the brand, quality, price, and user experience. Good recommendations and good previous experiences will 100% get my repeat business.

Where I don’t source new products and services? My inbox.

Email communication is one of those gifts of modern technology that is amazingly convenient, especially for those of us young enough to have bypassed the phone call era (read: calling me doesn’t work), but it comes at a bit of a cost:

  • Overcrowding: my inbox is full. I don’t do folders (my preference), and at any given moment, there are emails coming in, being flagged, being deleted, being sadly forgotten, and your sales email is just one among oh-so-many. Does it stand out? Better hope!
  • Reply All: To put it simply, there are more important emails than yours in my inbox than yours, and I have really got to get back to Megan who emailed me on MONDAY and did I ever reply to that one about that other thing? Hm…
  • Ain’t Nobody Got Time For This: It has been determined that the attention span that can be expected of a person while scrolling is about 6 seconds… for a video. Take the same physical process of scrolling in my all-white, text-based Outlook screen, and you’ve got me for maybe 0.005 seconds. If it’s just another form email with my name pasted in it (and not the first time from you), I’m just going to delete it. I’m sorry.

Emailing or calling more than three times is aggressive. I’m going to call it there. It becomes annoying, desperate, more meaningless with every communication, and just, yeah, aggressive. I’m not interested. Can’t you tell by my complete lack of communication? If I was really in the market for X, wouldn’t I bite?

Turns out I’m not the best candidate to give you advice on what to do instead – I call on one of my peers to take on that challenge, but if you are going to cold call or email me, here are some tips:

  • Be a real human being. Mail campaigns are great marketing materials, I would know, but make your copy convey your company voice accurately as a human – I don’t do business with robots.
  • Be funny or different. It really can’t hurt. A lot of people are playing from the same playbook. That just adds to my likelihood to delete.
  • Send good, relevant samples (not gifts). Samples are harder to throw away than an email, a voicemail, or a paper flyer. If they’re good, I’m likely to keep them to use somehow or even inquire about how to get more. Gifts I’ll keep or share with my team, but if it doesn’t actually represent your product, well, we’re just going to eat the Kringle and go on with our day.
  • Don’t go down the food chain. I’ve been privy to three instances in the last week of someone on one of our teams getting a sales email or call and needing to pass it up the food chain. Now, you’ve not only wasted my time, but that of my teams, too, and my time Aggressive.
  • If your prospective customer gives no signs of life, let them be. Please. Find more fertile waters. Best of luck to you.

Selling is a part of business, it’s a part of my business, but on the receiving end and as a marketing professional, I beg for this inbox harassment to cease!

I’m not buying the aggressive strategy.

Less Than Your Best

Recently I picked up a great line from one of our customers.  At the resolution phase of a warranty repair, he told me, “Ben, ain’t no such thing as perfect parts or perfect people.”  This stuck with me and I’ve even parroted it a few times since.  I understand this phrase’s meaning to be: we don’t live in a perfect world, so keep that in mind, be reasonable and solve the problems as they arise.  I find this simple message extremely helpful to keep things in perspective.

Last night on my drive home I heard something that helps tie this together and set an action plan for times we find ourselves to be less than perfect.  Listening to a Cubs baseball broadcast, color commentator and former player Ron Kumar told a story about himself and Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval; it went something like this:

During a recent game, the Cubs and Giants went into extra innings.  In the 10th inning, Sandoval went to bat with the bases loaded and one out and produced a weak ground ball that resulted in an inning-ending double play.  Later in the 13th inning, Sandoval got another opportunity and hit a game-winning walk-off homerun.  Sandoval was quoted: “After my at-bat in the 10th, I said to myself, you are better than that, you need to demonstrate that.” 

Kumar added some personal experience to his recounting of this story: “Yeah, sometimes you’re in the major leagues, but occasionally have to check yourself, go into the dugout, splash some water on your face, and remind yourself what you are capable of…you need to refocus and hold yourself accountable to the level of play that got you there.”

Used in conjunction, these two snippets combine for a powerful recipe of self-awareness, accountability, consistency, and continuous improvement.  Simply put, none of us operate at our best at all times.  To do so as often as possible, we need to establish and measure ourselves against standards, and be prepared to splash some water on our faces (or whatever you find helps you refocus and reset) and step our game back up.  

Baseball and sports, in general, lend themselves well to analogy.  This principle strikes me as universally applicable.  No perfect parts or people.  Up until he was recently passed by Manning, Brady, and Brees, Brett Favre held the all-time NFL records for both passing touchdowns and interceptions thrown.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Wins only exist with a potential for loss.  Everyone gets a trophy for showing up appears to be falling out of favor at youth sports (thankfully!).

Think about the most recent time you fell well short of your company’s, family’s, or personal standards.  Allow yourself to get very uncomfortable feeling those emotions of embarrassment, shame, irresponsibility, whatever form that upset takes and use it to motivate yourself to be better.

Easy wins and successes are not memorable and have little to no ongoing value.  Failures and missteps can be extremely valuable and motivating.  Don’t beat yourself up, simply recognize we will all be faced with our own inferior performance at times, and it is important we have a plan in place to identify when this happens and get ourselves back in the win column as fast and as often as possible.

 

Putting Out a Dumpster Fire

A dumpster fire is the perfect visual metaphor for when things go spectacularly wrong. It’s happened to me not a few times in my work life:

  • System outages preventing whole schools of students and educators from being able to do or access anything.
  • A new operating system that doesn’t allow users to operate.
  • A series of unfortunate events causing several essential personnel to be out at the same time.
  • The phones are down.
  • Or, in one case, an actual fire.

These are examples of situations, that when in them, you realize you are living through a dumpster fire.

The most important characteristic of your state of awareness, your view of the problem, is that amongst a lack of solutions, and impending fire, you aren’t panicking.  You are a bit beyond panic.  You realize that there isn’t a whole lot you can do.  It’s a weird feeling.

But what you can do, are these things:

  1. Don’t fan the flames. The worst thing anyone can do in a disastrous work scenario, where all seems to be going wrong, is to complain loudly, get others involved, and place blame. All these actions stoke the hot, hot flames, and that ultimately doesn’t help anyone.
  2. Be chill. Things are out of control, tempers are flaring, and the fire seems like it will never stop. The most helpful and ultimately resolving force in these situations are the individuals that keep calm and carry on, a beacon of rationality accepting the things we cannot control and helping everyone realize the world [probably] isn’t ending.
  3. Take notes. The thing about dumpster fires is you don’t see them coming. You don’t plan for all of the circumstances working against you—maybe one or two predictable worst-case scenarios—but a dumpster fire is something special, especially crappy. Take notes: what worked, what didn’t, what communications methods were best, who helped, who spread the fire, and how can you take this terrible situation and learn for next time?

No business, no industry, no life is safe from a periodic dumpster fire, sorry. So, should you suddenly find yourself having one of those days where it seems like the sky is falling and you are just watching it all numb to pain, (yeah, I had one recently, can you tell?) don’t worry, it’ll be okay if you understand that a dumpster fire is at least a controlled one, and you can be a force for good.

The Tale of the Sprinting Hippo

Some people call me the ‘The Sprinting Hippo’ and I don’t mind it at all. I coach and play for a softball team during the summers, and, just like the noble hippopotamus that can reach top speeds of 30 mph (it’s true, look it up!), I am much faster than you might assume just by looking at me. I’m not sure how to write out the sound that a hippo might make, but rest assured that I have attempted it several times as an on-field cheer (and it never fails to elicit a laugh – but no one has ever said, “That sounds just like a hippo!”).

My success with sprinting doesn’t end on the softball diamond though, nor does it even end with running. I have found it to be a very effective way to manage the work that my team and I do. If you have a lot of work, or a long way to go, it’s often daunting to try and look at the end as the goal. Instead, I like to think of it as a series of small distances I need to go.

My team subscribes to a method of work management called ‘Scrum’. Scrum has a lot of different principles (which are covered in this very excellent book), but the fundamental tenet that I like most is that you plan your work for relatively short periods of time called sprints. Sprinting at work has dramatically improved our throughput and may be exactly what you need to get through your own large project load.

At its most basic, a sprint is some period of time (we use 2 weeks, but typical sprint lengths range anywhere from 1-4 weeks). At the beginning of each sprint we decide, “What are the most important things on our list to accomplish during this sprint?” We select those items, discuss generally how they should be executed and then go to work. Each member of my team knows what’s expected from them during that time period, knows what success looks like, (Did we finish all of our objectives for the sprint?) and knows where to go next without needing me to guide or direct them. In short, it creates autonomous flow and keeps us having small successes.

Instead of looking at our entire workload as a never-ending pile of features to build, integrations to create and automations to… well, automate, we just look at it as a series of 2-weeks-worth lists of projects to accomplish. Our to-do list decreases down to empty as the sprint comes to an end and who doesn’t love the feeling of accomplishing everything on their list? What’s more, the relative importance of items on our total list changes pretty frequently. By only setting our list for 2 weeks, we have the ability to reprioritize every 2 weeks which keeps us agile and responsive to what our business needs.

Not everyone has the same kind of project list, I get it, but setting sprints for yourself has plenty of applications:

  • Completing Important but not Urgent Projects: Sometimes work is hard to predict – you can never really tell when jobs will come to your lot – but that doesn’t mean that your larger business objectives don’t have to be met. Your sprint objectives don’t have to be your entire weeks’ workload, just the most important thing for you to accomplish during that period. Choose just one or two such items set them as your sprint objectives for this week. Find time to accomplish those and then re-evaluate at the end of the week.
  • Completing Unpleasant Projects: Unpleasant tasks are often the most delayed because, well, they’re unpleasant. Sprint scheduling allows you to add one or two unpleasant tasks to your overall sprint goals which lets you take the sour with the sweet as you get work done. Just as importantly, success tends to beget momentum. Get a few things done on that painful project and the rest of the work will feel that much more possible.
  • Chipping Away on Home Projects: Got a big “Honey-Do” list at home? Pick the most important items you can reasonably complete in a weekend and choose that as your ‘Sprint’. You’ll feel less distracted by the entirety of your workload and will have a clear idea of what success looks like.

While sprinting as a runner is about going as fast as you can, sprinting for work is more about taking your work in appropriately bite-sized chunks. There’s always more work to do and if you always look at your full list, it’s human nature to get overwhelmed and decide that maybe it’s just better to not get started until tomorrow (or next week or next month). Instead, try choosing the bites you’d like to take, the sprint distance you’re going to run, and then start sprinting.

<Insert triumphant hippo noise here.>

 

Is Your Team Performing or Storming?

When there’s a lack of harmony on a team, chances are everyone is aware of it on some level, even if it’s just a vague sense of something’s not quite right. It could be really bad, palpable even from a distance – there could be internal turmoil, talking behind colleagues’ backs (which is never as secret as you might think it is), unrest, and open unhappiness. Or maybe communication just isn’t as smooth as it could be. There are hurdles like not being able to or wanting to talk face to face, digital communication dwelling awkwardly in the mystery tone-zone (was that sarcastic? mean? too informal?), or the relationships are professional but not much more than that.

I’m on multiple teams, and right now, not one of them is in the sweet spot. It stinks. It feels discordant, unsafe, and in the case of the team I manage, it feels like failure.

The four stages of team development as explored by my favorite leadership development tool, Officevibe, identifies the journey teams make in the course of change.

The difficulty the teams I’m apart of have had is that change is almost a near constant part of our workflow. We adaptably respond to the company’s needs and alter teams where need be. Just when it looks like we’re getting to “Norming” or if we’re lucky, “Performing” we have a change or a blow that sets us back to “Storming”.

“Storming”, what can be interpreted as dysfunctional teamwork, includes negative attitudes, competition, and breakdowns in communication.

My teams are storming. (Hi, teams, I love you, please trust in me!)

On one team, I can see as clearly as the words on the page the causes of our storms – staffing changes, work-life balance obstacles, and as ever, our ongoing Sysophisian challenge of figuring out how to effectively communicate with one another. Things are getting done, people are doing their own thing, but there isn’t harmony.

On my other stormy team, there’s distrust, competitive leadership, uncertainty, and complex relationships. It’s also, at times, highly effective. It’s the type of stormy team that when the clouds clear, they can accomplish some beautiful things – it can’t rain all the time! But it’s spring in Wisconsin, so, yeah, it rains.

Are you a member or leader of a stormy team? What’s to be done?

  • Know it: I know it. I am a leader of and member of teams that are forming, growing, feeling the pressure, and are sometimes storming. The first step is to accept it.
  • Don’t do nothing: Inaction and compliance are the safe and easy ways to let dysfunction win the day on teams. As a manager, I need to own it and work with my team to get to norming and performing. As a team member, I need to hold my peers accountable and not be complicit in behavior that holds the team back.
  • Get uncomfortable: I’m a highly self-conscious, sensitive, new and inexperienced manager. I’m pretty uncomfortable all the time. But, knowing my team is storming, and in part storming because of my role, I need to put myself out there, hear things that will suck to hear, and adapt to meet the needs of my employees, meet our team’s objectives, and grow as a leader – this is also true in my peer group – one’s got to lead by example!

Easier said than done, right? I know it.

We all want happy, healthy, and high functioning teams – if any of those 3 things are off, it’s time to check in and see what you can do as a peer and leader to get your teams from storming to performing.

Bungle in the Bundle

It’s not all right with me.  

Every now and then I’ll indulge myself and dip into the McDonald’s across from our office for a breakfast snack.  I can’t be the only one out there jonesing for a hash brown patty!  A funny thing happens each time I order: the sausage biscuit with egg is my jam and, of course, I like it with hash browns.  I have amazing coffee from home in a super insulated Yeti mug, so I don’t need a drink.  

The individual price of the sandwich plus hash brown exceeds the meal price which includes a drink.  The drink options are coffee, soda, orange juice, or milk, and the non-soda options add small increments to the price, none of which add up to more than the combination of a sandwich and browns a la carte.  Sometimes I’ll get coffee and spill it into my travel mug, which results in undermining the last few sips I take while finishing my snack.  Other times I’ll get chocolate milk, and slam that down, mainly as a nod to my youthful self who would have never let an opportunity for choco milk pass by.  Twice I’ve forgotten that I don’t really like their orange juice, or don’t like it trying to overpower the savory notes of the biscuit.  Yes, I have tried to substitute an additional ‘brown for the drink, to no avail.  

Last week I ordered the number 4 with “the least expensive drink option”.  I received a small Dr. Pepper and tossed it out six feet later in the next waste receptacle.  The immediate disposal, though equal waste to if I’d consumed it, felt ridiculous.  I’m resigned to order “Number 4 meal, no drink” from now on.  It’s the closest I can get to the ideal terms of the deal as presented by this merchant.  Am I thrilled about it?  No, it’s silly and a wee bit frustrating.  This is a painless junk food indulgence example.  What about on your cable bill though, still painless?  Really, so if I add home phone, a service I have no interest in, I qualify for a superfecta bundle promo and pay less?!  What if you want a volume price break on some pop tarts but really only want the brown sugar cinnamon and get stuck with the three other berry flavors that are just ok?  

Nobody wants a bad bundle.  The examples I’ve laid out are the result of macro-analytics dictating pricing and strategy logic that breaks down under my transactional experience.  Why didn’t they consider the guy without the drink?  Don’t I save the cost of beverage, container, and handling? Shouldn’t this cost less?  

I understand that I may be a market exception in these cases, and there is not sufficient awareness or incentive for the merchant to make any changes in my favor.  Regardless, if my buying needs fit outside their business logic, I still have an awkward experience.  

I’ve been on the other end of the bad bundle, too.  At my first estimating/sales position, I was with a large painting company in San Francisco, and I’d make the mistake of including a small item on a large job, such as the small shed on an entire house repaint.  Customers that didn’t see value in the shed painting may ask, please remove the shed from the quote, and then I’m in the awkward position of either taking a hit to my potential gross profit should I get the job, or pushing the bundle on the customer to keep my price point.  

Bad bundling, confusing terms, unbalanced component pricing, and more are all enemies of value exchange.  The best transaction are those where the maximum of value created is consumed.  Waste on either end erodes the potential value for both the merchant and customer.  

Time to pretend you are your customer:

  • What value do they seek that you don’t provide?  
  • What are you doing that your customer does not find valuable?  
  • What are you doing that is valuable that your customer doesn’t know about and therefore does not value?  
  • Where is the waste in your sale and service?  
  • If you can’t immediately think of a couple of potential pitfalls, ask your customers and ask your staff.

Find out what your customer values and deliver that to the best of your ability.  Keep asking and keep adding to the value you create and exchange. Again, no one wants a bad bundle; they want value. 

The 8 Laws of Human Behavior

I’m hoping you can help me. I’d like to find the creator of the piece below. I’ve Googled every way I know how and I’ve struck out time after time.

After a talk I delivered in Minneapolis last month, one of the audience members approached me and handed me a piece of paper. He simply said, “A friend of mine gave me this and I thought you might like it.”

That’s it. No attribution. No author listed. No idea where it came from.

The reason I want to know who wrote it is that I like it. I don’t agree with everything, but that’s why I like it. Somebody was willing to commit – to create list of laws – and then share it. That takes guts.

And so I’d like you to do three things after reading the list below:

1.    Help me find the author.
2.    Decide whether you agree with the laws – and send me your thoughts.
3.    Consider your own philosophies. What do you believe so strongly that you’d be willing to call a law?

The 8 Laws of Human Behavior

1.    People do things for their own reasons, not ours!
2.    People do not change their minds; they make new decisions based on new information.
3.    People make decisions based on emotion, justify with facts.
4.    People want to be part of something larger than themselves.
5.    People accept recognition, avoid accountability.
6.    People want to be treated as unique or special.
7.    People want to feel in control of their life.
8.    People want to know why they should do something rather than how to do it.

A Lot Can Happen in a Year

A year ago (tomorrow), was my last day at work before giving birth to my first child. I was planning on working from home the following week leading up to my due date, but I spent all of Memorial Day last year in the throes of contractions knowing I might not make it to that digital meeting Tuesday morning… I didn’t. I hung out in the hospital instead.

You know your life is going to change when you have a baby. I knew that. People tell you things. But it’s also one of those things you just have to experience for yourself, see how it changes you, your routines, your bank account, your work-life balance…

All of the things have changed. But what’s really exciting for me to keep in mind is how my work has changed in the year since I had my bub. Things changed in my day to day, coworkers left, coworkers joined, teams rearranged, responsibilities shifted and there is quite literally no end in sight to that change.

If you know exactly where you and your business will be in a year, do something unexpected. Or, I suppose, just wait for the unexpected to happen to you, soak it all in – the good and the bad – and show up every day ready for new and exciting changes and challenges.

This is a short article. This is a long weekend. Next week is a short week – surprise yourself. Do something out of routine. Shake things up at home or life. And enjoy every moment. It goes fast.

 

PS: I’ve been reflecting a lot lately, both about REMAN U –  its reach and effectiveness – and my own soon-to-be yearling. Slightly more than a year ago, I wrote my last REMAN U article before my baby-outage: My Last REMAN U (For Now). In that article, I was reflective about why we do REMAN U and why you should, too, (but your version!). This entire month I’ve been taking the time to write something every day – even if just a sentence, to honestly capture how I’m feeling and what’s happening around me. Do your version. And look at it a year from now. Then do it again!

Building a Positive Attitude, Building Your Bank Account

My mother hung a magnet on our refrigerator when I was ten years old that read, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” I hated that magnet as a kid. I later learned that it was a Charles Swindoll quote. I also learned to love the quote – because I learned to love the impact it has had on my life.

Charles Swindoll Quote

Most people have a crappy attitude. There’s negativity everywhere and there’s a reason to be bummed out pretty much all of the time. To make matters worse, attitude is contagious. Negative attitude, for that matter, is perhaps more contagious that positive attitude. It’s why one negative coworker can ruin the mood of the entire team the minute they walk in the door. Positive attitude has to be on purpose.  It’s a state of mind and it’s a commitment to staying positive despite and in spite of all the crap (and the crappy people) that happens to you.

You may think that your attitude is a result of things that happen to you. You may think that your attitude is a result of the people that you associate with or the way they treat you. You’d be thinking wrong.

Attitude is what you do with what happens to you. It’s how you react. It’s how you respond. Having the right attitude allows you to win in the face of great adversity. After all, “success is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down” – and it’s you attitude that determines whether you’ve got the strength to get back up.

Now, keep in mind – your thoughts are just the beginning. It’s your actions that define your performance. But it’s your thoughts and your attitude that lead to your actions. Get your attitude right and then get to work!

Without a positive attitude, ability guarantees nothing. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem. Which comes first? Ability or attitude? What’s more important? The answer is that they are both important and both necessary. Attitude plus ability results in achievement. And the stronger your positive attitude becomes, the stronger your desire to hone your abilities. The better you become, the better your attitude. And so it continues until one day, your beliefs and your ability to succeed are impenetrable.  Attitude is the secret ingredient in the formula for success.

Attitude is NOT everything. It is your ability to stay committed to a positive attitude through everything that makes the difference between winning and losing.

OK, so how do you get a positive attitude? You decide to commit to having one. Positive attitude is a choice. It’s a commitment. And, it’s a gift that you give to yourself. You have to wake up in the morning and decide to make the day your best ever. You have to tell yourself that no matter what happens, you’re going to keep on trucking.

Before you go to work, you have to work on yourself. Start by doing something that makes you happy or that makes you think or that makes you feel fulfilled. Wake up in the morning and exercise. Wake up in the morning and turn on your favorite music. Wake up in the morning and read. Yes, read. I have found more inspiration, more direction, and more attitude help in books than anywhere else.

These are the books that influenced my thinking, my actions, and my success. Get to a bookstore (or Amazon) and buy a copy for yourself:

Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude – Jeffrey Gitomer

Life is Tremendous – Charlie Tremendous Jones

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude – Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone

The Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent Peale

Acres of Diamonds – Russell Conwell

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you’re in positive mode. Try reading a few pages out of one of the books each morning before you go to work and watch your attitude – and your business – improve before you know it.

Your Business In Layman’s Terms

Because we probably aren’t experts on everything, in many customer service scenarios we are put in the position of the layman, needing some specialized information explained… to understand the medical procedure, the amount of labor required, the exact specifications. It is on the part of the professional to simplify – without dumbing down – the technical information in order to “make the sale”.

The term layman has come to mean “a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field.”  It also has a somewhat less commonly known meaning of “a person who is not a member of the clergy”, which is its original definition. Layman is derived from the words “lay” (from the Old French “lai”, meaning “secular”) and “man”, hence the “non-cleric” meaning.

To put something in layman’s terms is to describe a complex or technical statement using words and terms that someone not specialized in a specific field can understand.

My work is technically oriented, and not everyone I communicate with shares my knowledge, experience, understanding, or vocabulary.  My current role is leader of the product support team for a transmission remanufacturer, dealing heavily in technical diagnostic work.  My previous careers in contracting and insurance had similar challenges.  To both internal customers (the people in other departments in your company or your vendors/suppliers) and external customers (the ones that pay!), your expertise and understanding are often beyond theirs, but the need to find common ground and effectively communicate or translate technical details are critical to your success, and theirs.

Here are some examples that may be relevant to you:

  • demonstrating value in a sale
  • setting proper expectations for your product or service delivery
  • troubleshooting issues
  • promoting adherence to processes
  • getting buy in from business leadership
  • new process or systems adoption

Problem now stated, it is my mission to provide some value in how to combat or mitigate (insurance lingo for limit) this challenge.  Here’s are some strategies:

  • Find common language.
    • Avoid using technical jargon or acronyms that the recipient of your message may not know.
  • Simplify, slow down, and provide only relevant info.
    • Less can be more if it’s understandable.
  • Use metaphors.
    • Tell a story your customer can relate to that makes your intended point.
  • Pictures!
    • A good infographic or diagram can be a major help here.
  • Ask questions to assess the listeners understanding:
    • Does that make sense? Are you with me so far?
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
    • Try to take the blinders off and pretend that if you didn’t have all the knowledge, would you follow?
  • Self-deprecation or even technical-deprecation may be useful to keep people from getting defensive when they are confused.
    • “I recall getting this mixed up before someone explained it to me, too.”

It isn’t necessary for every customer, client, or passerby to have the same technical understanding of the service you’re providing as you do. What is essential is that the customer understands what the scope of work is and what they’re paying for. I try out explanations on my 7-year-old – with a completely open mind and no prior knowledge, he’s a good judge of how clearly I can explain a process without the necessary technical lingo.

To make the sale or mitigate customer concerns about time or spending, remember it’s not dumbing down, but translation. Simplify, illustrate, and ask questions.

How have you made your most technical topic easy to understand?