Are you talking with your customers in a language they understand? In the hilariously funny tv show Silicon Valley, they poke fun at how we in the tech biz tend to spew nonsense and technobabble when talking with customers. As a 30+ year high tech sales veteran, this really resonates with me.

Here’s an example: “What is Hooli? Excellent question. Hooli isn’t just another high tech company. Hooli isn’t just about software. Hooli…Hooli is about people. Hooli is about innovative technology that makes a difference, transforming the world as we know it. Making the world a better place, through minimal message oriented transport layers. I firmly believe we can only achieve greatness if first we achieve goodness.” — GAVIN BELSON

We love to create our own proprietary acronyms and buzzwords in high tech. The problem is that while we fall in love with our clever acronyms and buzzwords, we are confusing the shit out of our customers. And the last time I checked, it’s never a winning sales strategy to make your customers feel dumb. Which is only exacerbated by the fact that when a customer doesn’t understand what you are saying and feels dumb… they’re not inclined to let you know that.

I’ve facilitated many workshops with startup exec teams around customer messaging and our story. One of my workshop rules of engagement is that no one is allowed to use a proprietary acronym or buzzword. I have an obnoxious sounding game show buzzer that I use when anyone violates that rule of engagement. It’s. incredibly annoying when I push the game show buzzer and really creates. distraction and confusion in the conversation flow.

This is quite by design and often the exec team will get visibly frustrated, even to the point of a stop that flash of anger moment. That’s when I explain that is precisely what I was trying to have you learn. That teaching moment is showing the exec team how their customer feels when they talk to them in cliche SiliconValley speak… rather than in just plain English. More often than not, this produces an “aha” moment with the exec team.

Maybe by using fancy words with lots of syllables and what you think are clever acronyms, you believe that you are impressing the customer with how smart you are. I can assure you that plan is not working. Why? Because I do tons of discovery calls with my customer’s customers. And my customers are not allowed on those discovery calls because I need to learn the unvarnished truth of what their customer’s experience has been in working with them.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve done thousands of these discovery calls with my customer’s customers. It’s a fascinating exercise because the amazing insights that I glean from these customer discovery calls far outweighs the insights that I glean from the discovery calls with my actual customer. The vast majority of the discovery calls with my customer’s customers are conducted with very senior execs… think VP and C-Suite level folks.

Do you know why your customers are buying your solution over other alternatives including doing nothing? Do you know why your customer decided to buy your solution when they did and not wait to buy until later? Do you know what alternative solutions they were considering and what was their back up plan if they couldn’t come to terms with you?

I think you’d agree that these are super important questions to ask your customers and know the real answers. Why? It can inform everything you say and do with a customer and provide much better alignment and understanding. You’ll find that you can build much closer relationships with your customers when you are not afraid to ask the tough questions and really listen and absorb what the customer says.

Good selling!