As the saying goes, “you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”
But it’s also true that you can’t bullshit an expert.
And that’s something you had better keep in mind when you’re talking to your customers. A lot of them are experts, and they know when you’re full of shit.
Any time you’re talking to a customer, whether it be via email, video, social media or <gasp!> in person, you’re talking to someone in their world.
Conversation is an Intersection of Knowledge
Conversation by its very nature requires that the parties involved both venture into each other’s territories in a kind of venn diagram of knowledge. Yes, you may know everything about the parts you’re an expert at – but it’s very likely you don’t know everything about their world – the parts they’re experts at. Your conversation is where those two intersect.
It comes across a lot in the language, the ways you talk about the products and lifestyle. There’s slang, terminology and other bits and pieces that people know and recognize. And people pick up on these cues. Sometimes it’s consciously, other times it’s unconsciously – but trust me, they do.
Remember when you were a kid and a grownup tried using some kind of slang to better connect with you? Chances are they didn’t use it quite right, and you could smell the bullshit behind it.
That’s how it is with talking to customers.
Know What You Know and Accept What You Don’t
This is why in a world where we can easily outsource all parts of our business, it’s important to also know what NOT to outsource.
Don’t outsource your expertise – unless you’re outsourcing to an expert.
You know your business better than anyone and you know how to do the things you do. But what you may not know is the actual culture of your customer. You can do research and you can try to understand how the customer talks and thinks, but unless you’re really part of the world you’re always going to be an outsider.
Is It Really a Duck?
Just because it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, doesn’t really mean it’s a duck. Most people can tell when you’re wearing a costume.
So my recommendation? Make sure the people speaking on your behalf are really part of the community they’re speaking to. Make them your bridge between your company and them. Talk to them as peers because you actually are peers. Not only does it build trust, but it also helps gain insight.
When they don’t know what they’re talking about? Make sure they’re honest. Let the customers be the experts when needed. But whatever you do, don’t try to bullshit them.
You know what you know, and no more. Faking it doesn’t cut it … and it’s going to do you more harm than good.
The Best Communicators
The best communicators are the ones who are the translators. The ones who can exist in two different worlds and translate between the two. Understand the value proposition put forth by the company or product, and explain it in a way that is honest and understandable to the customer. Take what the customer is saying, and translate it back to the company.
Find those people. Hire them. Bring them into your company and work with them to bridge the gaps that exist between your corporate goals and the customers’ goals.
They’re out there. Chances are they’re your customer already.
I bet a lot of them would love the opportunity to help.