To Succeed in Sales, Speak Your Prospect’s Language


Let's say you are the world's greatest sales professional - so good in fact, your company feels that you are the right person to expand the organization's market share outside the USA, starting in France. This is all great until you arrive in Paris and discover that the language gap will be a bigger problem than anticipated.


Your new apartment is beautiful, in a great location, and nicely furnished. All that's missing is a nice, big flatscreen TV. You make your way to the local TV store, but all the signs are in French, and the prices are in Euros. The clerk walks up to you and says, "Est'ce que je pourrais vous aider?" You assume she is offering to help you and try to explain that: a) you are looking for a large flat-screen TV; and b) need help to figure out what it takes to hook up a TV in France. You have other questions like, “Do they have HD?”; “What's the highest available resolution?”; “Do they deliver?”; “Will they fix it if it breaks?”; you know, the usual stuff. . .


Unfortunately, the clerk clearly can't understand a word you are saying—a frustrating experience for both of you, to say the least. You want to buy, and the clerk clearly wants to sell. But the language barrier prevents you from transacting.


So, you give up and move on in search of an electronics store where someone speaks English. Sure enough, you come across a store with signage in both English and French. So, you decide to step in and look around. You are greeted by a clerk who greets you and, in flawless English, asks, "How can I help you?"


Wow! What a relief! The clerk understands all of your questions and provides answers that you can also understand. Then you notice the prices (shown in both Euros and dollars); the TVs here are priced higher compared to the first place you visited up the street. You challenge the clerk by asking about price matching. His response is this: "Sir, we are a bit more costly; yes, however, we speak English. If you have a problem, you simply call us. If you need assistance hooking it up or want us to help you, simply call us. Surely the fact that we speak English is worth something to you, is it not?"


He had you at "we speak English. . ." He's right — the store's ability to communicate and do business with you in your language is well worth the extra cost.


This story illustrates the importance of communicating with your prospects in their language. Every day we use our industry's jargon to communicate with each other, our customers, and our prospects. Too often, the information we try to share in the form of acronyms, technical terms, and sales speak is not fully understood by the people we are talking to. Yet, we continue to communicate in that way.


When the doctor told me my son was experiencing supraventricular tachycardia, I asked, "What in the world is that?" The physician had to break it down in plain English for me to understand the problem, the causes and symptoms, and the options for a treatment. I don't speak “doctor”, so the discussion had to be in a language I could comprehend.


As a sales professional, it is critical to communicate with your prospects in their language so you can be sure they receive and understand your message. This is especially important when talking to the C-suite. Just like the Anglophone TV buyer in France, the store that spoke your language was where you decided to buy - and where you were willing to pay a premium price.


Here is the bottom line: If you expect to be successful in selling, you have to learn your prospect’s language and use plain English instead of your industry's jargon. Learn to ask your discovery questions in a manner that helps your prospect better explain their issues, pains, and goals. Also, learn to communicate your value as it relates to the issues outlined by your prospect. Remember, communication is a two-way street that's all about sharing messages both parties can understand, relate, and respond to.


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