Listen to and learn from other people’s jargon

As a salesperson working to understand your customer as well as you know yourself, you are ipso facto going to be skating on thin ice from time to time, when discussing the other person’s job and expertise. Have confidence. Most people are happy to explain what they do and the words they use. Besides which, a little bit of bluffing can, at fairly low risk, pay handsomely in terms of pleasing people by sounding as though you understand what they do. It is a question of taking careful notes, reworking their words and repeating the ideas back.

Here is an example from the publishing business. A commissioning editor was in full selling mode as he tried to get a Nobel Prize winner to write a book for his publishing company. The scientist says, ‘I could be interested in doing something on my work on the electromagnetic properties of wood, given the new work published recently by Professor X.’ ‘So,’ says the salesman, repeating the jargon with slight changes, ‘You are studying in the same area of research as Professor X, who I guess has made a major contribution to the field of electromagnetism.’ ‘You know my work?’ says astonished and impressed Nobel Prize winner.

Take care not to affect too much knowledge that you do not have in this area, but risk and return go hand in hand and no salesperson made target without taking some risks.