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Details, Details
18 Mar 2015

One of the great, yet odd, things about living with your bestfriend is the glimpses into your own neurosis it provides. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Ralph and I are the same person; nor are we one of those couples who’ve grown to behave alike; but we do, occasionally, approach situations in an eerily similar fashion. Case in point this afternoon. He’s on the phone with Amazon trying to sort out a mislabeled product he just received and totally confused the agent. Hell, I knew what he was talking about, and he almost managed to confuse me! Ralph’s side of the conversation went something like this: 

“I received a bottle of D3 and K2, but I was supposed to just get a K2”
“I realize I also purchased a bottle of the D3/K2, but that was for someone else. This shipment should have been just a bottle of K2.”
“Just so you know the packaging around the bottle said K2, but the bottle itself says it has D3 in it as well.”
“Someone must have pulled the correct product off the shelf, but it was labeled wrong.”
“No, I got the wrong one. I got D3/K2.”
“I did want D3/K2 but that was another order, this order I wanted two bottles: one of D3 and one of K2, I got a bottle of D3 and a bottle of D3/K2 combo.”

… this went on for a good ten minutes, and while it made perfect sense to me, I couldn’t help but think to myself: 

“Baby, she doesn’t need that much detail… you’re just confusing her.”

Perhaps the part of the conversation where he said “I got the wrong product” happened before I roosted within earshot, but regardless of how he arrived in this alphanumeric support joust, I quickly realized how customers must feel when we go on and on in geek speak. What’s worse, I remember times when I worked as a support agent - way back in the day - and customers would call me and dive right in, referring to application fields by their customly labeled names as if I also spoke their jargon. 

Commonly held sales advice suggests we should always strive to speak the customer’s language, but what happens when doing so just digs us a detail hole? Do we even need to get that specific to get the idea across? When we speak in generic or abstract terms are we hurting the sale?

Sadly I do the same thing as Ralph all the time. Whenever I understand - or suspect to understand - how or why a problem occurred, it’s not enough for me to request a resolution; for some reason I feel compelled to ensure the supporting party understands the cause and - more importantly - that *I* understand the cause. Even though I almost always end up frustrated on a fifteen minute call that should have taken five, I somehow feel better knowing I tried. I just hope I don’t do it in sales situations. 

In my experience offering clients a bunch of specific examples only confuses them. Instead of suggesting that perhaps their problem happened because of X, or that it occasionally happens due to Y with other clients, just ask them what they think the cause is. This way you don’t risk introducing fear or implied complication into the deal. Just like in Ralph’s exchange, where a simple “I received the wrong product” would have sufficed - in sales, additional detail without context only confuses the client and delays the sale. 

So this week, ask - don’t tell. Let the client be the hypothesis generator. Your only job is to move the deal forward, not to guess as to what caused you to get this far. When you keep your hypotheses to yourself and examples to a minimum, you won’t detour the journey and will arrive at the close clearly and quickly.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 16:45
Erin Wilson

I find great amusement in everyday absurdities and am constantly surprised by how my bar-ventures, my travels, and even my food-qusitions relate to the shenanigans that is software sales. I am grateful for the opportunity to leverage the Sapient Salesman as an outlet to share with you my follies, and I hope you can enjoy the schadenfreude.

Website: ebullienterin.com/