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If you're like most sales professionals, you work hard to learn as much as you can about your product or service. You take pride in how much you know about your business. When you can answer any technical question that might come up in a call with a prospect, you feel confident. That's only natural. But as important as it is to be knowledgeable, your eagerness to display that knowledge can damage a relationship and cost you sales. To avoid this problem, you need to remember that expertise can be intimidating. It can turn people off. Using technical jargon, for example, can leave one of two impressions. First, the use of buzzwords or industry-speak can make some prospects suspect you're bluffing. They can think you are showing off and using language you don't really understand yourself. Second, it can give the impression that you really do know what you're talking about, which can make the prospect feel at a disadvantage. In both cases, you've made your prospect feel uncomfortable, and someone who is uncomfortable is not likely to make the emotional investment necessary to build the relationship and buy the product. If prospects really don't understand what you're saying, they probably won't ask questions. That's because they don't want to admit their ignorance, which your expertise has brought to light. (Who really likes to ask for directions?) Remember, too, that discomfort is a kind of pain. You've come to remove a prospect's pain-the secret of all sales-but you've only created more of it. Prospects placed in a potentially embarrassing position are likely to remove that pain themselves by removing you. They'll say they are impressed with your company and ask you to leave some printed information, and show you to the door. They'll promise to review the material and get back to you, but the chances this will happen aren't great. I know all this from hard-earned personal experience, but it's still reassuring to receive confirmation of it from an objective source. Stephanie Palmer is a former Hollywood producer who has supervised the production of 20 movies with multimillion-dollar budgets, including "Legally Blonde." She has heard more than 3,000 "pitches." In her recent book, "Good in a Room," Palmer says you always have to pretend that the prospect is smarter than you are, just to protect the prospect's ego. If you don't protect the prospect's fragile self-esteem, you'll not make the sale-or get your film produced! Maybe Hollywood egos are more insecure than the rest of the country's, but the point is worth remembering whenever you feel tempted to come on too strong and too early with technical information. It's never a bad thing to be the smartest guy (or gal) in a room. But if you want to make sales, you probably shouldn't act like you are
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