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'Always Be Explaining': Your Sales Team's New Mantra

The one thing your sales team needs to improve? Explaining, says Lee LeFever, founder of Common Craft. Here's how.

People rarely buy products they don't understand, so it's a salesman's job to explain them. But what if your explanation is so organic it's pointless?

Perhaps you suffer from the curse of knowledge--knowing so much you explain things in ways no one grasps. 

Revisiting the basics of explaining can help, writes Lee LeFever, founder of Common Craft, in The Harvard Business Review. Here's an overview: 

Focus on why.

Make sure your team knows exactly what your product or service does for customers. "By answering the "why" early on , you create a foundation for understanding on which to build more complex ideas," says LeFever. 

Simple trumps clever.

"Fancy vocabulary and extensive background information might impress customers--but, more likely, will just confuse them," he says. Instead of trying to impress people with how smart you are, make them feel smart by building their knowledge. 

Explain the forest, not just the trees.

Customers must understand why your product exists and how it can help them. Make sure they get the big picture before going into detail. 

The antidote to confusion is less information.

It's tempting to bombard your customers with information, but that won't help someone who's confused. "Don't add detail; come back to one of two big ideas you know they'll understand" LeFever advises. 

Tell a story.

"If you think stories are for campfires, not your state-of-the-art product, then you're forgetting that your audience is human," LeFever says. "Stories provide a way to see how a product works in the real world, with real people." 

Don't be condescending.

"No one likes to be talked down to, and if you approach explanation with the wrong attitude, it can be destructive," LeFever explains. Assume your customers are as smart as you, just not as informed.  

Last updated: Jun 18, 2013


Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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