We Are All Teachers

teacher-for-sspostDuring a recent networking lunch, one attendee told me that he often has a hard time explaining his services to his customers so that they clearly understand what exactly he does for them.

That’s the challenge of being an expert. You spent all those years listening to lectures and doing internships. You went to all that trouble to learn the tricks and terminology of your trade, so you could make money by trading on your reputation as a trusted expert in your field.

But here’s the rub: your customers and fellow BNI members are not experts in your field. They don’t know all the lingo. They just know that their car is making a funny noise, that they need to plan for the future, or that they’d like to help you get referrals.

This is why you are a teacher, and your office or BNI chapter meeting is your classroom.

Here are two insights I discovered during my years as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Missouri State University. When you talk to a client, or deliver your Sales Manager Moment at your BNI meeting, these techniques will help everyone understand what you do and how you can help them.

  1. Consider what your audience already knows.

What do they already know about cars, legal services, or whatever you do? For example, most people know what the brake pedal is. Likewise, most people have heard of having a will.

What other topics are your customers familiar with? What do they know about sports, current events, or pop culture? What about familiar activities like brushing teeth or fixing meals?

  1. Build a bridge from old to new knowledge.

It’s easier to grasp unfamiliar concepts when we can relate them to familiar concepts.

With respect to cars, explain how the familiar brake pedal is connected to something going on under the hood that is not so familiar.

When talking to clients about estate planning, ask a few friendly questions to see what they already know about wills. When you tell them about less familiar things, like living wills or trusts, you can start by showing how they are different from wills.

General knowledge about other topics can be a source of analogies. For example, trying to fix your own car or write your own will is like having amateur referees instead of professional referees in the NFL. The qualified professional is more likely to make the correct decisions without the costly errors than an inexperienced amateur makes.

This is why we find well-known celebrities, songs, and metaphors in commercials. These familiar items are teaching tools that advertisers use to simplify their messages and educate their audiences.

Try these ideas when delivering your sales pitch, and perhaps you’ll discover even more useful techniques for making your products and services understandable to the average lay person.