Don’t let your sales presentations get lost in translation…


A good friend of mine recently had the need to visit a solicitor for some advice on a legal matter. The meeting lasted 30 minutes and afterwards she called in at my house for a coffee.

 When I asked her how the meeting with the solicitor had gone, she gave me a slightly bemused, quizzical look.

“I’m not sure,” she said.

Now it was my turn to be puzzled. “Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, to be honest, I didn’t understand a word she said to me.”

Now, let me make something clear here – my friend is not uneducated or stupid by any stretch of the imagination. Yet that was exactly how she was made to feel by the end of her meeting.

When I asked her more about the meeting it became obvious there had been one recurring theme throughout their chat – the solicitor had been talking mainly in legal terms and not in a language easily understood by an everyday person.

My friend works in the medical profession and I’m sure she uses terminology and jargon that would be second-nature to a surgeon but would also be just as mystifying as legal-talk to an everyday person like me.

And that is the point – it is very easy for all of us to fall into the trap of talking in a language that makes perfect sense to us in our own particular professions…but not so to our potential customers.

The very last thing any of us want to do is to make our customers feel stupid when we are delivering our sales pitches to them. Because a customer who feels stupid will rarely want to make themselves feel even more stupid by telling you they don’t understand what you are saying to them.

Also, a customer who you have made to feel stupid will never buy from you. The point in case being my friend. I asked her if she would go back to see that particular solicitor and she said she probably wouldn’t – because she didn’t want to feel stupid again!

I had a similar situation the other day when I was at a business networking meeting and sat next to a guy and started chatting.

When he asked me what I did for a living I said what I always say: “I help people who hate selling increase their sales.”

I then asked him the same question and he answered: “I aid in the effective communication of value propositions.”

It sounded very impressive but I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, so I asked: “How do you do that?”

Same question I guess, just asked from a different angle – but it got broadly the same answer! Lots of talk about how businesses don’t communicate their value propositions effectively enough, and how he helps businesses do that more successfully.

Again, it all sounded very impressive – but there was absolutely no attempt to either explain what a value proposition was, or to establish if I knew what one was.

Now depending on understanding, a value proposition is the positioning of value, where value equals the benefit to the clients less cost and risk (I think!) yet I’m sure that could be explained much more simply. In other words, explained in such a way that an everyday person would understand.

I was left feeling not impressed by his knowledge, but feeling a little bit confused and ever so slightly stupid for not fully understanding what he was talking about. I was also left thinking that I would never recommend his services to anyone because I wasn’t sure what they were!

So here’s a tip – road-test your sales pitch to someone not from your profession and ask them if they fully understand the benefits of your service. If they do, then that’s brilliant.

However, if they are a little confused, or need to ask more than a couple of questions to clarify your offering, then look at re-wording your pitch so that it can be easily understood by your customers – after all if they don’t get how you can help them, they won’t buy from you!


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