Oh, Now I Get It!
Ahhh! Vacations are great.
I had only half of one in the last two weeks and now that I’m back things still seem brighter and happier than before.
The highlight was spending time with my wife and kids. (My daughter is in high school, my son is a senior mechanical engineering student at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.)
One of the evenings, sitting around the picnic table with his sister and mother and me on the deck of a cabin we rented in Chimney Rock, NC, my son was talking about his work.
(As a high schooler, he wasn’t interested and couldn’t begin to relate to the world of work. Now I love to hear this 21-year-old kid talk about work!)
I asked, “So what’s this senior thesis project about that makes you need to use an electron microscope?”
“Well, our customer thinks a metal part we made has a crack and won’t take the shear loading required,” he said.
“What is the microscope for?”
“I think it is a scratch, not a crack. But the customer is panicky and wants it remade. So, my co-op professor is helping me use the scope to look for molecular inclusions or voids.”
Leslie (his mother) looked perplexed. Her medical and publishing background was useless for this kind of conversation.
She said, “I have no idea what you two are even talking about! Can you please explain it so I can understand?”
Without missing a beat Frank said, “We’re trying to see if we screwed up, or if the customer is trying to screw us over, Mom.”
“Oh, now I get it!” Leslie said.
Immediately I knew I had just heard a small miracle: a young technician capable of shifting his language to match the needs of his audience.
Managing Technical Communication in the Sales Process
My son’s example might not sound all that impressive, but people struggle with this sort of thing all the time:
- Businesspeople struggle when technicians communicate value poorly (“Please don’t tell us how the clock works!”), and
- Technicians struggle when businesspeople communicate value poorly (“You didn’t say you needed it to be free!”)
Half the battle is just getting people to see that they should respect other person’s perspective (ignorance?).
I’ve met lots of people who stunted their careers, either by assuming real value was only in the technology and not in what non-technical people thought about it, or by assuming the opposite. Both points of view are naive – the value is always in some relation between the two.
Communicating effectively – especially with technical material – is something most people have to work at.
How much training and support do you provide to your technical sales support staff?
Some companies have found these people to be an enormous untapped resource for driving revenue.
Check this out:
July 13, 2009