Are you a Vendor or a Solution Provider?

When I was at AOL, my sales mentor, Charlie Warner critiqued my sales presentation. He complimented me on my professionalism.  He said I used precise, technical terms and could perfectly articulate my company’s value proposition and how we stood against our competitors.

Then he got in my face and said words to me that have forever shaped my career:

“Your clients won’t know what the hell you’re talking about”.

Are we doing such a great job of explaining how the technology works that we forget how to find out if a client even cares?

What if a client doesn’t care about how the technology works at all?  What will that do to your presentation? In non-technical terms, can we explain how we will provide a solution to their problem? 

I once intervened when a member of my team corrected a client’s vocabulary as he described an in-house problem our technology could solve.  My teammate proceeded to explain what this problem was called and the name of the technical solution, and proceeded with her pitch.  I stopped the pitch.  “Tell us more,” I said, “about what’s not working.”  

If a client is opening up to you about a problem, take copious notes.  Learn their language instead of teaching them yours.

Charlie said “If you use terms your client doesn’t understand, it makes them feel stupid.  Do you really think they’ll open up to you and share their pain?  Using jargon is what gangs do, to separate themselves like an exclusive club.  Don’t do it.”

Lesson learned:  If you are selling your technology, you are a vendor. 

If you are learning, all over again, what problems a customer experiences and together you craft a solution that happens to use your technology, then you are a solution provider.

Laurel Earhart for Smart Content Conference

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