“So they put over 820 million whosawhatsits on the thingy and provided 2.0 Gigasomethings, coupled with a gizmo that drives another doohickey! …And that’s why we’re the leader in innovation.”

Yeah. Right. What he said.

We’ve all been there at some point, sitting in a pitch, or a brainstorm or a strategy meeting that goes all loco. The kind of meeting where the architects or engineers or people that work in development, are flooding you with technical information that’s over your head. Better yet, they’re trying to push those features or specs into the communications message and strategy.

The kind of meeting where you just want to take their 800amps of power something and shock yourself to make sure you’re still awake.

Just relax. Take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone.

Let’s face it, we work in the tech industry and have an outstanding book of business because we’ve established a level of trust with our clients. And sometimes, it takes that meeting to listen to the engineer and ask some basic questions, in-order-to gain the trust of not only your client, but also yourself.

I’ve had a wide-range of clientèle, from hospitality to medical, caterers to adult beverage makers. But it was the high-tech clients that taught me the most. I’ve learned from them not only how to be a better client representative, but also how to take a higher-interest in the “behind the scenes” development and innovation that gives us products and services to represent.

For those of you who don’t know, I come from the land of marketing communications and branding. There’s an exercise that I started doing with every client of mine so I could understand more about what they do, their user impact and how the end-user will benefit and make their preference choice. I sit in my office, and develop their brand architecture statements by answering the following questions to the best of my knowledge with as many responses as possible (we’ll use the shoes I’m wearing as an example):

  • What are the product features? (non-slip sole, strong arch support)
  • What are the product’s functional benefits? (Support, stability, non-slip)
  • What are the product’s emotional benefits? (Strength, comfort)
  • What are the psycho/social benefits? (When I use this product, I feel/am: secure; ready for the road ahead)

It’s a basic framework. But it gives me a better understanding of the top-level product pitch. Now comes the hard part.

Because I start this on my own, I don’t always know all of the product features. I might know that this shoe has an arch support, or a non-slip sole, but do I know the technical details of it? Why did they choose to support the arch with a hard-plastic or gel base instead of foam? Why is this sole non-slick? Is there something special about the tred?

Sometimes asking those “why” questions about the basics, not only gives us a better product understanding but lets the client know you’re interested. And if you don’t understand something that’s explained to you, have them try and spell it out.

One of my old clients was a medical implant company. They created spinal cord stimulations devices for chronic-pain sufferers and I was in-charge of their re-branding campaign. All the product marketing team kept talking about was “independent current control,” and “1% increments,” and this funny word “parasthesia.” Though tech savvy, I’m no biomedical engineer and I was completely in the dark.

It wasn’t until I had them explain the system to me, teach me Ohm’s law, and show me the cadavers (yes dead people), that I finally understood the impact of their product. They controlled electrical current and nerve stimulation. They got people off of pain-killers for a more functional life. They made pain “feel like champagne.” Moreover, because I took the time to learn, the team was more responsive to my future recommendations.

It sounds daunting. Heck, it’s down right scary sometimes to have these conversations with people more technically-savvy than ourselves. The good news is we’re not expected to hop on the production line and make the next chip. But, if you can build your knowledge and get through the gigabytes, semiconductors, and the nuts & bolts, you’re way ahead of the game.

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