I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I have a little difficulty understanding the language of my clients. I sell solutions to a sophisticated audience with a strong mathematical background. They’ve been in their industry a long time, and they know their stuff. I didn’t work in their industry for very long. I’m by no means a professional in it and honestly I sometimes find myself a bit confused by their complicated technical terminology.
I try my best to be a good communicator, but I know sometimes I fall short of what I want to achieve.
As a salesperson, I know communication is vitally important. My customers need to know they’re not wasting their time with me. They need to know that I understand their world and have the solutions they need – even if I’ve never sat in their chair or worked in their industry.
I know you understand where I’m coming from. You spend all day speaking to clients, preparing presentations, and putting together a strategy to make the sale. You invest a lot of time talking about and doing demos of products that will fill your clients’ needs. If your customers are confident that you understand their business and their needs, you’re more likely to make the sale.
You need to speak their language.
What Does It Mean To Speak Your Client’s Language?
What do I mean by speaking your client’s language? I mean the ability to understand:
- Your client’s needs and concerns
- Their business and their role in the company
- The terminology they use
- How you can best serve their needs
When you understand your client’s language, you can participate actively in any conversation about their role and discuss anything related to their job without hesitation.
Go Beyond The Basics
Knowing the basics of what your client needs and what their job entails gives you a solid foundation. A truly effective salesperson, however, digs much deeper.
You need to understand your client’s every day work in depth. What do they do each day? What are their activities? You need to learn about their job and their industry in depth, including their company’s products, services, targets and clients.
Get to know the challenges your customer faces. The better you understand the challenges and risks they deal with, the better you can understand their worries, and any doubts they might have about your product.
Finally, you need to get to know your customer as a person. How can you truly speak their language otherwise? Take some time and get to know their personality, their emotions, and their approach to life.
Why Speaking Your Client’s Language Is So Important
Let’s be honest: If you don’t speak your client’s language you run the risk of looking like a fool and losing the sale. A closed door is difficult to re-open, and you don’t want to lose a sale because your customer didn’t feel understood by you. In order to trust you, your client needs to know they can have a useful discussion with you about their needs.
Trust paves the way for your client to tell you about their concerns and any missing knowledge or skills. In other words, all the problems that you could potentially help them with. Only when you establish that initial trust can you open the door to further discussion – and that starts with speaking their language.
When you take the time to understand your client’s job in depth, and to listen carefully to their needs and worries before trying to sell, you show your client that you can be trusted, and that you understand them.
How To Speak Your Client’s Language
I’m constantly working to better speak my client’s language, and I’ve discovered there are many steps that help salespeople improve in this area. Here are some I highly recommend:
- Talk to your client – they’re the expert in their field. Don’t shy away from more pushy or aggressive clients either. Find a way to approach them and learn from them.
- Get educated about what your client does. Read books about their industry, and make use of the wealth of information provided online by blogs, articles and white papers.
- If you don’t know something – ask. Most people, clients and colleagues alike, will have more respect for you if you show willingness to learn.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions. Talk to your clients about hidden aspects of their jobs or lives. Find out what keeps them awake with worry at 3AM.
- Ask your company for further training. The better trained you are, the more money you can make them.
- Listen to your colleagues, especially those who have worked for your company for a long time or are in a more senior position – they have a lot of experience to share.
- Network – making friends in your industry can bring a lot helpful information your way. Make time for discussion with friends in your network, and other sales people in your industry.
- Ask one of your satisfied clients if you can spend a day or half day at their office and learn more about what they do.
Some sales people even opt to take a brief career sabbatical and work for a while in their target industry before transitioning back to sales.
Make Speaking Their Language A Priority
Speaking the language of your clients is a cornerstone of your success. It’s not easy and it takes time, but your effort will be repaid in more sales and greater success. I recommend you spend at least a third of your working time building up this skill.
The learning curve is steep, but worth it. You’ll need to improve your technical knowledge of your client’s industry, learn more about their industry dynamics, and learn all you can about their needs, their business, their concerns, their fears, their challenges, even their peers, and your competitors.
Then, you take all of that information and use it to improve your sales pitch and approach. The result is that you can approach your clients as an equal and it’s easier to build trust and forge long term relationships that are ultimately profitable for you and your company.
Remember, the market is always changing, and so are your clients. Learning to speak their language is an ongoing process of education and re-evaluation. Make it a regular part of your daily work and you’ll reap the rewards.