I recently met with a consultant from another firm that is interested in partnering with us at E.G. Insight. The conversation with her got me thinking about the importance of clarity when communicating with B2B customers.
The woman I met was professional, curious about my business (always a plus!) and had multiple examples of work she and her firm had done for organizations that were similar to our clients in some way. That all sounds great, right? Here’s the problem: When she described the projects and the work she did, I never got a clear sense of what she was talking about. Her project summaries were lofty and vague, and she used jargon and terms that I was unfamiliar with and had no reference for.
Now, in my job it’s not at all uncommon to have to learn a new language of sorts. Each client has tools, processes, and practices that are unique to their organization. Then, add the technical terms, acronyms, and seemingly made-up words that make up industry jargon and it can be a lot to absorb. As a result, I’m pretty comfortable with asking a lot of questions in order to better understand the client’s business, its customers, and the industry in which it operates. I have no issue with being the dumb guy in the room, at least temporarily.
The difference in this scenario is that to some extent I was the customer. The person I was meeting with initiated the collaboration discussion and was pushing more assertively for next steps. She was selling – and was looking for me to buy – and I was clearly having trouble “getting” how we could help each other. As the conversation progressed, either my failure to understand or her inability to clearly articulate their work led to some confusion. What was first confusing became frustrating. Frustration ultimately turned to annoyance. It wasn’t a great first meeting, but I’m not sure she knew it.
Now she’s asking for another meeting – and I’ve got to say I’m less than eager to find an open slot on the calendar. My business partner, Gary Gerds, has been using a phrase lately. The saying goes, “If your customers can’t understand what it is you’re selling, they won’t buy it 100% of the time.” I no longer have any doubt what that phrase means.