Getting Past ‘Geek Speak’ to Make the Sale

I purchased a new computer yesterday; managing to overcome an array of obstacles put in my path guessed it...the very people who hoped to sell it to me. The problem was "geek speak", aka a desire by manufacturers, marketers and sales people engaged in the tech world to obfuscate simple concepts behind a massive smokescreen of jargon.

In attempting to make my way through the customization of a basic system I kept encountering terminology that literally made no sense. It all presumed that I already understood the difference between the various options presented and that I might make my decision based exclusively on price. The questions they ask begin with technology itself rather than the uses for the technology. When I began conversations with a human I tried to explain how I used the computer and what I did and didn't do with it. For instance, given my usage patterns (not playing video games, for instance) how much memory did I need?


Read this paragraph from the Dell website and tell me what it means:


Dell has several hard drive options that can support your specific business needs. Note: RAID configurations include 2 hard drives; however, since the drives are configured as a RAID array, the system may only show one hard drive present. For example, an 500GB RAID 1 configuration includes two 500GB hard drives; however, the system will see one 500GB hard drive capacity to store files due to mirroring technology.


I needed more memory than the 500 gb hard drive offered. I stumbled across an option to add a second 500kb drive. So far so good. Then I noticed something called "hard drive mode". It took several repeated readings to figure out (roughly) what they were talking about (I think). And, in fact, the sales person I ultimately talked to at Dell didn't understand it either and sold me off this option when, in fact, a RAID 0 solution would have worked. Got it?


What eventually made the sale was a brief discussion on my actual needs and computer usage behavior. I intrinsically trusted the sales person because they assured me that, given my stated needs and usage, his recommendation would be more than adequate for both now and the near term future. I wasn't in the market for technology, but for a business solution that would be enabled by technology. Until folks like Dell understand this I just can't buy from them.


The lesson here is pretty straightforward: don't show the factory unless that's what you're selling. It is the result that the customer wants, not the arcana that enables it. And, while I am certain that there are some folks out there who do want to babble in geek speak, whether to amuse themselves or show off, most people selling things need to concentrate on what the customer is actually buying and not on the miraculous technology they are offering.