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If You Don’t Know, Ask For An Education

Yesterday I wrote about how to talk to C-level executives. It starts and ends with business acumen, of course. And there is lots you can and should be doing to improve your business acumen.

But with that said, you won’t always know and understand your dream client’s business. If you don’t know what you need to know, ask for an education.

A Free C-Level Education

Build your business acumen. Do your research. Learn as much as you can. Then, when you don’t know or understand what you need to know and understand, ask your C-Level dream client executive to educate you.

Your C-Level executive contact knows their business cold. They understand their business at a very deep level. They have educated lots of people on how to think about their business and how to create value for their business.

Your C-Level executive contact also knows their priorities. They know what they need to do to move the needle, and they’ll have a lot of ideas as to what you as a strategic partner can do to help them reach their goals.

When you don’t know, don’t pretend you do know. Ask.

You can say something like, “Can you help educate me in this part of your business? I need a better understanding of how this works for you and how we might make a difference.”

You are proving a couple things by asking. First, you are proving that you care enough to really learn about their business and how you can make a difference for them. Second, you are proving that when you don’t know something, you will go find the answer—instead of pretending you know what you are talking about.

I go on a lot of sales calls. Salespeople sometimes ask me how I know what questions to ask, and how I know what I know about lots of different businesses. It is because I am willing to ask for help learning the things I don’t know, and I have had the great benefit of working with lots of great clients who taught me how to think about their businesses.

Learning the Language

The same is true for learning a businesses language. I can’t tell you how many salespeople I have seen participate in conversations where acronyms were flying across the table, knowing darn well that they had no idea what was being said.

There is no reason to pretend that you understand what is being said. You will likely embarrass yourself later. The easiest thing to do is say, “I am not familiar with that acronym. What does that mean?”

Businesses in certain industries have their own language (just like we in sales have our own language), and certain individual businesses have their own internal language, too. You need to learn that language.

I remember many years ago sitting at a table with some logistics guys talking about LTL freight and cross docking. I was as clueless then as you probably are now. I asked. They laughed. Then they educated me. Months later, at another logistics company, I was able to ask whether they had LTL freight issues and the challenges with cross docking.

If you don’t know, ask to be educated.

Questions

Do your dream clients always expect you to know everything about their business? Or, do they expect you to understand it from the point of view of a strategic partner?

How do you learn the intricate details about how your dream client’s businesses work?

Does your experience show that c-level executives are willing to help you understand their business and they want to help you learn?

What are the risks of pretending you understand things that you really don’t understand?

How will not learning what you need to know help you the next time you encounter a similar business or a similar concept?


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  1. […] can learn from your clients on sales calls; they would love to teach you their business. You can learn from the team members within your own company; you have subject matter experts who […]