I still remember the VP look me with a sad smile. She sighed, telling me, “John, I know you’re saying words in English, but they mean nothing to me.” The crazy thing was that I did (and do) pride myself on my communication skills. I had gone to bed the night before thinking about how I could explain these concepts simply.
The catch: I was still describing how the solution worked from a technological perspective and not a business perspective. She didn’t care about the technology I was talking about it. She cared more about how the solution was going to solve her business problems.
Talking Tech vs. Talking Business
I wish I could go back and have that same conversation with her now. I know that we would get to deeper levels of mutual understanding. And we would end up with an even better solution. The catch was that I really did think I was talking on her terms. I thought by simplifying my description of the technology, it would help her. I approached the conversation with the intent to teach her about the technology.
She didn’t care! Much later in my career, I realized that I needed to pivot my entire conversation to her perspective, and to the perspective of other VPs. It shouldn’t include technology at all. Instead, it should be about the team. I started to pivot my conversations to how the solution can help produce a better work product more efficiently. Same solution, but instead of teaching about how it worked, I started talking about how it could help.
It’s embarrassing now to think about how I was pitching features while all she cared about were the benefits. I was very lucky that an extremely well-respected software company recommended she talk with us. She already knew we were the experts who could solve her problems. If we were pitching her cold, she would have never, ever gone with us. We were speaking about exactly the same solution but seeing it from two entirely different perspectives.