Speak your customer’s language – a lesson from the tech sector

November 15, 2016 5:30 pm

This post was first published on 9th December 2014

I was listening to a client speak the other day. He was intelligent, thoughtful, eloquent even. And had it all wrong.

Now this executive is the chief technology officer (CTO) at a large software company. His clients are often chief information officers (CIOs) at all kinds of organisation, whether in the public or private sector.

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Note the italics on ‘often’. Whereas a large number of CIOs have traditionally made up his key contacts and understood his more technical nuances – the business models, the jargon, the tech vendor references and so on – increasingly his conversations are with other people in a business.

When he speaks to a member of a top team who isn’t a CIO – another CxO, as it were – he is now faced with a different conundrum. His jargon isn’t comforting; it’s a turn off. His technical expertise (what else would you expect from a CTO?) isn’t impressive; it’s intimidating.

In short, our CTO must find a simple, straightforward way to talk about the benefits of technology. Like never before, he must focus on his clients’ needs and be a problem-solver, not a salesman. He must be all about their business, not his.

Why is this change happening? When it comes to the technology sector non-CIOs, many not all that senior in some organisations, are increasingly buying cloud services directly over the internet, usually as some kind of software-as-a-service (SaaS).

These people are empowered by this, sure, but also plenty of experts argue that marketers know more about CRM than the IT guys, similarly accountants with financial software or designers with CADCAM. I could go on. Increasingly digital workplaces and digitally native workforces are also a driver. So there are good reasons when it comes to tech.

But any client of ours, whether in tech or not, must be sensitive to the same issue. These are the new imperatives:

  • Listen well.
  • Speak like your customers.
  • Solve your customers’ problems.
  • Be open to change – the sands of industries you might have spent 20 years mastering are shifting beneath your feet.

It is no coincidence that organisations like the one I’ve mentioned here are using services from people like us. We can help them speak plainly and show how they can be genuinely useful. Of course, they must realise all this themselves. Their customers will thank them.

*photo credit: mlinksva via photopin cc

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