Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
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We all take pride in our credentials and our education. After all, they’ve earned us a place within our profession. In addition, some of us have become thought leaders within our profession: blogging, publishing, speaking, teaching. We’ve earned our stripes through diligence and hard work. We’ve spent our time in the trenches.
Do you consciously walk around with streaming video or a neon sign declaring to the world that you are your LinkedIn resume, your latest publication or educational degree? How about wearing a sandwich board sign that proclaims: “I am a thought leader!” (hint: our business cards with lots of acronyms following our name and title is a great mini-sandwich board).
Yet so many of us come across as “flashing our credentials” when we speak with our clients, friends and family members. We unconsciously – or perhaps consciously – use professional-speak lingo-slinging within our conversations as though we are entitled to use these terms. We come across being perceived by our clients as though they are the uninitiated and we are members of an exclusive club. Which can create real barriers to communication.
Using high doses of professional terminology when communicating with non-technical folks (who may also be our customers, students, friends and family) can be like creating our own secret handshake And I’m not insisting that we dumb down our conversations. However, not everyone is a technical peer. And if these are the only conversations you are comfortable having, then ask yourself why you are limiting yourself to professional-speak lingo-slinging.
That’s not to say that technical terminology should be eliminated from business development discussions. However, using the technical term accompanied by a definition that is succinct and simple is an excellent means of educating and getting everyone on the same page. It’s like having a technical discussion with an individual from a different country. Afford your communication with non-technical types the same respect that you would give to a conversation with a peer from another country.
Because a lot of those non-technical types just may be Owners. And communicating business development solutions that address issues and educate the Owner may be more distinguishing than having a PhD or being a Fellow of five professional societies. These Owners care about what you can do for them and how your solution positively impacts their bottom line. They don’t care about your secret handshake and, quite frankly, may not be interested in ever learning it. And that’s about as succinct and non-technical as I can get.
Perhaps the most sobering thought is that when Owners hire you or your firm to work on a project, they want to come out of that project better off than they were going in. The entire experience of working with you should be rewarding. There are going to be lots and lots of discussions along the road to the solution. There are lots of opportunities to distinguish yourself and your firm for clarity of communication: as expressed verbally as well as architecturally and structurally.
I was in Barcelona recently and experienced many Gaudi buildings, including La Sagrada Familia. And what struck me the most was the simplicity and intimacy of the experience in spite of the mind-boggling complexity of the undertaking. And you know how many conversations Gaudi had with Owners over the years. And these Owners were not necessarily technical peers.
The ability to make ourselves and our ideas accessible through communication will become a hallmark for successful business development in the architectural and civil engineering community. ‘Listen” to yourself throughout your daily conversations this week. Are you a professional-speak lingo-slinger or an accessible communicator?