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Saying it so I Hear

There is nothing more essential to business than being able to communicate the benefits or value of the company, product, or service. Whether that communication is with a bank, a supplier, or a customer; failure to do it properly is often the source of problems, the need to rework or duplicate work, lost sales, or other opportunities. 

American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) tracks the amount of money spent on employee development and it is shocking that even in the current economically challenged times, that over $125 Billion was devoted to various training initiatives.  Of that, a significant amount of it is spent on communication skills.  A recent Dale Carnegie study found that a significant amount of that was devoted to various forms of communication training (from telephone skills, conducting meetings, face-to-face conversations, emails, and presentations).  And yet – the need for the training continues to increase.  In just the last month, I have been approached by clients seeking to improve some form of their communication (primarily between sales or marketing functions and prospects or customers).

Communication is only effective if it is understood.

Finance – the Language of Business

Whether focused on the entrepreneur having to approach the bank for a loan or the sales person having to justify the benefit of a customer making a purchase, there are certain “vocabulary” words and ways of structuring the conversation so that it makes sense and accomplishes the purpose of the conversation.  Be sure that at a minimum, you understand and can explain:

  1. Costs
  2. Profit
  3. Return on Investment
  4. Risk
  5. Assets
  6. Expenses

While there is far more to having a successful conversation that drives the performance anticipated.  Those six (6) terms should at least get your focused where you want the conversation to be headed.

Lose the Techno-Speak

Two different clients of mine in very different industries and product lines recently contacted me to consult with them on the strength of their sales efforts.  Specifically, they wanted assistance and guidance around how they structure, present, and market their products or solutions to customers.  In both instances here is what I found:

  1. They had fallen in love with themselves.  They were passionate about their processes, their manufacturing approach, their own internal approaches.  Their selling strategies were self–focused.  It was as if they were asking, “I love myself, don’t you love me too?”
  2. They both were quick to compare themselves to leading competitors or an industry standard on various measures, but they did not ask their  customers, “how will you measure us and our success?”
  3. The customer was almost treated as incidental.  Very few instances of actual dialogue or discussion were occurring.  The sales effort was truly a presentation or stage production with an audience (only minus the lights and orchestra).
  4. Most importantly, the conversation was not about business opportunities or solutions to problems that were easily translated and understood.  Rather, there was an awful lot of referencing of acronyms, reports, industry buzzwords, and non-English vernacular that would only make sense to someone who was deeply entrenched in the technology.  Unfortunately for the sales people in both companies – the people who understand that level of detail and specificity can’t make purchase decisions at the budget levels needed, and the senior executives who can make those larger purchases are fluent in “business” and not technology.

The disconnects between seller and buyer are growing larger as technology advances and there are ever more complex ways to accomplish tasks simply (do we really need to know how a cell phone works, or do we just need to know how to use it to meet our mobile telephonic needs?).  A return to talking about how the product or service will enhance the job is what is needed.  Leave the “blah blah blah” to the competitors.

David Zahn