April 2, 2020
Selling technical products to non-technical customers.

We have all likely had a discussion with a doctor, lawyer, banker, or insurance agent and at the end had no idea what they were talking about. If it was a salesperson you were listening to, you most likely did not buy what they were selling.

I don’t know if it is our natural desire not to appear uneducated or just foolish pride, but in most cases, we act like we understand instead of demanding an explanation in terms that make sense to us. To make matters worse, many of us will even shake our head up and down giving the speaker the impression we understand what they are telling us.

For example…

Situation 1

You’re in the emergency room and after what seems like an eternity the doctor approaches you and says, “You have a comminuted torsional high-impact Colles trauma of the distal radius. The nurse will be with you shortly.”

The doctor then leaves you sitting there stunned and thinking, “What did he say? Is it terminal? Am I going to die?”

The nurse finally comes in and you ask what is really wrong with you. “Oh, you just twisted your wrist and broke it,” she says. “We’ll cast it, and in five to six weeks you’ll be fine.”

Now you feel a lot better, but you keep asking yourself why the doctor didn’t tell you this in a way you could understand.

Situation 2

You have taken your laptop into a computer repair shop and the diagnosis comes back that your CPU has a problem with its cache, which is causing a hard drive indexing problem. This unexplainable phenomenon is common with legacy versions of your OS, which does not allow you to complete URL address connections. You respond with a “thank you,” having no idea what the computer repair technician just said. In other words, your PC will not connect to the internet because it is using old software, and you should probably buy a new one.

Here are some interesting terms I picked out of previous editions of Professional Distributor. Are you 100 percent sure you know what they mean? ADAS upgrade application ready, advanced coding adaptations, JVCI/ECU Programmer, QC3.0 Quick-charge, telematics solution, rapid load response technology, and my favorite: 1.3GHZ -1.7GHZ Hexacore processor.

None of these words and phrases are bad in any way. They were created by well-meaning product managers or marketing people and are designed to make their product sound cool, up-to-date, and different than the competition. However, when used without explanation they can confuse an already confused potential buyer.

In the selling world of a mobile jobber, your customers are young, old, and everywhere in between. Some are highly educated, some are barely educated, and all are educated in the school of hard knocks. If your customer is young you may automatically assume they are technically adept, and if they are older you may assume they don’t know the difference between a megabyte and a TPMS. You may be correct in some cases, but the issue is you don’t know what they do or do not know. This leads to misunderstanding, miscommunication, misrepresentation, and most often a missed sale.

Your best bet to improve your success rate in selling technical products is to assume your prospect knows nothing, understands less, and needs to be spoon-fed your product information. I am not implying in any way that vehicle technicians are as dumb as a lug wrench; the exact opposite is true. But when selling a technical product, you will do better starting off slowly and clearly explaining every feature, advantage, and benefit as you go through your demonstration. As you do your trial closes, you will begin to get an idea of how much your prospect understands and just how technically advanced they are or are not.

Ask a lot of questions about how your prospect will use this tool and how it will help them. This will also help you understand how well they are understanding and buying into what you are selling. If they ask how well your super-duper vacuum pump will clean between the seats, you’d better go back to the beginning and start over.

If it is possible and practical, hook your new high-tech product up to a vehicle and walk the prospect through the operation. Hands-on demonstrations will help you get understanding and buy-in. An added benefit is that the customer will be able to use the new product as soon as theirs arrives in the shop.

Another thought to consider when presenting high-tech products is that this should be a one-on-one event. If you have two participants with two different levels of technical understanding, one will be bored, the other won’t know what you are talking about, and neither will likely buy the product. The one who understands nothing will be too embarrassed to ask questions, and the one who knows it all already will probably ask questions that will just confuse the other prospect even more.

If you use the old KISS system of selling technical products, your results will be better and your paycheck will be bigger.

KISS, an acronym for "keep it simple, stupid," is an old Navy directive that states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than being made needlessly complicated. Therefore, simplicity should be a key goal and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Last March, we talked about practicing your presentation many times before you talk to a customer, especially a big customer. This is even more important in selling high-tech products. Practice your pitch using easy-to-understand terminology without sounding patronizing, and you’ll be ready for your next high-tech sale.

Now, go sell something.

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