Are You Speaking Their Language?
Is it just me, or have you been hearing more ads for language learning and language learning mobile apps lately? Maybe they feel that we are all shut in and this is a great time to learn a new language, or maybe the more global diversity means that knowing another language is no longer optional.
Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB
Have you ever been to a foreign country and asked for directions or tried to communicate with one of 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 sell them, do you know their language? I’m not talking about 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 higher and deeper relationship levels 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. When I started in sales, I subscribed to everything from Automotive News to Funeral Director Monthly. Today, it’s much easier. Each trade category that you call on, whether it be restaurants, retail, automotive, telecom, etc., any category that you call on has an industry association website or newsletter. In my experience, most of the newsletters are free and delivered right to your inbox every week. You don’t need to read every word of the newsletter or publication if you have the printed version. Just start with these four things:
1. Review the table of contents or website tabs for the various sections
2. Read the cover story – the above the fold story, or the top item on the page
3. Review letters to the editor or if they have a comments section
4. Find the “industry news update” page.
If you do those four things consistently, in a short time, you will be well-versed in the language of your customer. Just like media, every category of business has jargon that they use. Go to the automotive section of RAB.com and you will find a dictionary of dealer terms that include such things as service absorption rate, be-back, busting bugs, sled and more. These are terms that only car dealers use. If you’d like, shoot me a quick email here and I’ll be happy to send you the dealer dictionary. If you want to be perceived as an ‘outside insider’ and someone who can help prevent their problems, there is nothing better than knowing and speaking their language.
As a bonus, you will be aware of the challenges of that industry, and 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” of your client can help you better understand them and communicate your solutions.
If you feel like you’re not “connecting” with your clients as deeply as you could, try investing some time learning their language. In my experience, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.