Geek Speak II --
Geek-Speak is everywhere these days. It seems that we are so impressed with our technical
knowledge and expertise that we forget our audience. As I stated in my first article
"Geek- Speak," it is important to simplify, simplify, simplify. This applies not
only to e-mail or on-line business, but to everyday usage as well.
Recently I observed a salesman in a computer store mesmerizing an elderly couple with his
techno-babble. They had come into the store looking for a computer for some very basic
needs. The salesman was very impressive with his knowledge. He talked about the clock
speed of the computer. He compared the various processors and showed them the 3-D Graphics
capability of the computer. Then they were told about the 56K, V.90 modem, that they could
get a DVD ROM and that, if they wanted to, they could upgrade from 64MB of RAM to 128MB of
It was obvious that he knew the product extremely well. His technological knowledge was
encyclopaedic. Just as impressive was his monumental lack of knowledge of the customer. He
never listened to them at all. They smiled and agreed with his evaluation, thanked him for
his time, and proceeded to look at other products. A few minutes later the same salesman
cornered another couple and proceeded with the same techno-babble or Geek Speak.
A few minutes later this same elderly couple were approached by another salesman who
offered assistance. They seemed reluctant to talk to him. I could only assume that they
were afraid of the same barrage of Geek -Speak that they had been subjected to before. His
first question to them had nothing to do with the computer other than asking what they
were looking for. During the next thirty minutes he talked to them about their interests.
He discovered that they had a son in Australia and a daughter in England, not to mention
an extended family throughout North America. They informed him that they were both history
buffs. He also found out that she enjoyed cooking. He discovered that they would like to
stay in closer touch with their family. This was one thing that he focused on.. Not once
did he talk about DVD, RAM, ROM, clock speed, or pixels on a screen.
They had heard about e-mail but never really investigated the possibilities. They had
believed that they were past the point of obtaining any serious knowledge of computers.
The first salesman reinforced this belief that computers were too complicated. This is not
to suggest that elderly people cannot become computer literate, but the approach of the
first salesman convinced them that it was beyond them.
Once the second salesman discovered something of their needs, he began talking about the
simplicity of e-mail and how they could stay in touch fairly easily. He talked about doing
searches through the Internet on their favourite history topics, and the various cooking
newsgroups that could be accessed online. He carefully told them about accessing
information online without using technical jargon and how they could actually send and
receive pictures. The possibility of receiving pictures of their grand-children intrigued
them. They really liked the idea that, even though they may not be able to get to
Australia, they could receive regular pictures of their grand-children growing up. When he
talked about the capability of the computer, he used language that they understood. They
received the same information as they did from the first salesman, but in a language that
was not peppered with impressive Geek-Speak. He sold them on ideas that they were
interested in. By the time he finished, they had bought over three thousand dollars worth
of computer equipment. He did not sell them the computer and peripherals- they were ready
to buy- they just wanted to understand what they were buying.
This kind of simplification of the techno-babble or Geek-Speak that I discussed in my
first article can affect sales, not only in a store situation, but also online. There will
always be a necessity to use Geek-Speak but it is essential to know your audience. More
sales are lost because someone, in a misguided attempt to impress their audience, confuses
that same audience with a barrage of technical jargon or Geek-Speak. One must judge the
audience carefully and the first step is to listen to the questions that are being asked.
Better still, ask questions that will elicit a response that will result in gaining some
information about the prospective purchaser. It is easy to sell someone a product that
they are impressed with but that they don't need.
The most successful sales people are those who sell someone a product they need. The
result is repeat sales because the customer knows that their needs will be met and they
won't be loaded up with peripherals that become dust collectors.