Are You Speaking Your Clients’ Language?
Remember when we used to travel for fun? I do. Several years ago, my wife Carolyn and I took a trip to Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico. We were on a mission: To find Poncho’s Backyard – a restaurant a friend told us, was the “must-go-to” restaurant in Cozumel. It was a locally owned, off-the-beaten-path type place with margaritas that came in fishbowls. The only instructions we were given were to turn left out of the marina, go down the main street about three-fourths of a mile and look for a little wooden sign on a building that would direct us down a dark alley between two buildings. This is where we would find Poncho’s.
Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB
Have you ever been to a foreign country and asked for directions or tried to communicate with the locals when you don’t speak the language? It’s next to impossible. You smile, make hand gestures, and for reasons I never understood, find yourself speaking slowly and loudly as though the person were hard of hearing. When you don’t speak the language, communicating and connecting is surface level at best.
When you call on a business to try and help them, do you know their language? I’m not talking Italian, Spanish or French; do you know the language of the business? Some refer to this as jargon. Every business has it. Talk to someone about “spots” and “traffic” who doesn’t sell radio and they will think you’re talking about something on your clothes or cars on the road. Say that to a “radio person” and there is an instant affinity.
Every business has a language, words, jargon or phrases that are specific to that business. If you don’t “speak that language,” you may do better than you would in a foreign country, but you’ll never get to the Consultant or Sustaining Resource level of relationships until you learn the language of the business and industry you are calling on.
One of my personal goals is to learn Spanish, but that will take some time. Learning the language of your clients, however, is relatively easy. Industry trade publications and industry websites are a great start. You don’t need to read them cover to cover. Just start with these four things:
Review the table of contents
Read the cover story
Review letters to the editor
Find “industry news update” page
If you do those four things consistently, you will be well versed in the language of your customers. As a bonus, you will be aware of the challenges of that industry. More importantly, you will be privy to the solutions offered by industry experts. Imagine how having that kind of knowledge and being able to “speak the same language” as your client can help you better understand them and communicate your solutions.
Hopefully, the next time I go to Mexico I’ll be able to do more than say; “hello,” “good-bye” and “can I have another beer?” Sadly, that’s about the extent of my Spanish language skills at this moment. Learning the language will give me a whole new level of understanding of the culture, the people and a much deeper level of communication.
If you feel like you’re not “connecting” with your clients as deeply as you could, try investing some time learning their language.
Jeff Schmidt is SVP-Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach Jeff at Jeff.Schmidt@rab.com or follow him on social media: Twitter, LinkedIn.