One of my European clients recently received an introduction to a senior executive from a major French corporation. When my client called the executive to introduce himself he asked, “Do you mind if I speak with you in English?” The executive replied frostily, in English, “If you don’t speak French, why should I want to do business with you?”
After a pause, my client – who speaks six languages – replied in French that he would very much like to do business with the executive’s firm. He had been concerned that his French was not strong enough, and that he would offend the executive by speaking it poorly.
The executive was so pleased that my client spoke any French at all that he made it very clear he was eager to work with my client.
This is a powerful example of why you need to engage with customers using their language.
It’s Our Responsibility to Speak Their language.
The point I want to make is not that you learn to speak French.
The real question is this: how often are we failing to speak the prospect or client’s language – even when we’re all speaking English?
When you’re having conversations with prospective clients, have you noticed that managers have different concerns and issues than company owners or purchasing agents?
Consider this: how many of your prospects speak your language – the language of your craft or profession?
It is your responsibility to speak their language.
If you can learn to present your service or product in their language – in terms they understand, in terms of their concerns or problems – your odds of doing business increase dramatically!
So what is their language? And how do we find out what is important to them?
Engage with Customers: How to Find Out Their Language
There are a number of ways to approach this. Possible models might sound like this:
- Ms. Prospect, when you’ve worked on this kind of project before (or with someone like me), what kinds of issues were most important to you?
- What kinds of challenges did you encounter – challenges that you would prefer not to repeat?
- What kinds of things can I do to be most effective for you?
- What are the top three results you want out of our work together?
- How will you and I know if we are on the right track?
Also, are you using metaphors and client case studies that your prospect can relate to – without laborious translations in his own head. Without them, you can’t engage with customers because they’re focused on just trying to figure out if you really understand their problems, their world?
Additionally, are you using questions and pains /consequences you’ve heard from other similar clients?
Other Questions that Engage with Customers
If you know or suspect your prospective client is talking to multiple vendors, a powerful question to ask early in the conversation is:
“How will you decide on the company or expert you want to work with?”
Another way to phrase the question: “How will you know we are a fit for each other?
Here are two additional versions of this same question that works well with prospective corporate clients:
“What are your decision criteria for this work?” And, “What is the decision process in your organization?”
In addition to helping you engage with customers, the answers to these questions will also give you insight into the decision process and the decision language of your prospective client.
So what’s the bottom line? Check yourself on this whole translation issue, and ask yourself candidly if you’re really speaking your client’s language.
If you’re not closing as much as you want, this could make a real difference for you.
Take Action – Make This Your Own
Listen to yourself as you speak with your prospects this week, then ask yourself candidly:
- Are you really connecting on an emotional level?
- Is your prospect being open and candid with you?
- Are you closing easily, or getting a lot of push back and objections?
Review your language and see how close you are to your prospect’s language.
Keep refining your approach – see how your closes increase while objections decrease.
You can also check out these related posts:
Share a comment: tell us about a time when a consultant or salesperson really spoke your language?