The More You Know, the Less You Show

There are so many unusual ironies that surround the world of selling, and one of them is the odd relationship between product knowledge, and how and when to share that product knowledge with a client.  Our instinct is to try and show our clients how knowledgeable we are. Furthermore, we want to demonstrate that product knowledge as quickly as we can, and for as long as possible.

Our instinct is wrong.

It’s not hard to differentiate a seasoned salesperson from a salesperson who is early in his or her career.  One of the first tells is how anxious that salesperson is to convince the customer how smart he or she is.  Some of that might be due to nerves.  Some of that might be due to insecurity.  The biggest reason that newer salespeople talk so much about their product is because they haven’t learned how to economize what it is they are trying to say.  The longer we stay in our industry, and the more we master our product, the easier it is to find simple ways to articulate the message we want to say.  It sounds easier than it is, because learning that lesson can take some time.

This problem is in no way limited to salespeople.  I find the same problem with trainers, and with those who are tasked with giving presentations.  When you are given new material to present and it’s your first time, your instinct is to try and show the audience how knowledgeable you are, and to demonstrate that knowledge. 

That instinct is wrong. 

Again, it’s not hard to tell a seasoned presenter from a novice.  Novices will use as much time as possible, just trying to impress others with what they know.  Seasoned presenters will spend a lot of their time trying to involve the audience with thought provoking questions, small group exercises, facilitated conversations, and more.  What’s more, much like those who sell, the longer we give presentations, the closer we are to mastering simple ways to verbalize it.  

Strangely enough, you don’t get slower giving a presentation multiple times; you get faster.  French philosopher Jean de la Bruyere said it best when he said:

“We seldom regret talking little, but very often talking too much.”

In the end, it’s a weird irony to realize the less we know, the more we talk, and the more we know, the less talk.  Instead of burying others with what you know, dazzle them with the questions you ask, your ability to listen to the answers, and the creativity you demonstrate in communicating your subject matter. 

Related: Half Done Is Almost Perfect