With my recent move from Vancouver BC to Wilmington NC has come a change in local clientele. That is the biggest challenge I’ve had to work on over the past couple of months. The difference in clientele is this: it has changed from primarily CEO-types to small business owners. And I’m here to tell ya, they ain’t the same.
I am very proficient at CEO-speak. I look and talk like an accountant (probably another reason why I do well as a sales professional: I don’t appear to be one). I’m used to speaking with CEO-types who are hired guns. They have metrics they’re accountable for, targets they expect to achieve and goals to stretch for and reach. Many businesses in Vancouver are run by people like this, and they’ve made up almost every one of my previous clients. Even the smaller firms have been run by university-educated types.
Contrast with the small business owner: worried about angry Mrs. Smith, who they have to call back; got to pick up shop supplies because no one else will; never looked at an income statement; are happy if their bank balance remains positive through the year. That’s it. Oh, and a key discovery: CEO-speak scares the heck out of them.
If you’re in a big city, CEO-speak is fine. However, in smaller towns you’d better tone it down. Don’t let phrases such as “gross margin” or “amortized cost” pop out. The stresses of a small business owner are very different from those of a CEO-type. They’re much more interested in the operational side of the business: getting things done rather than shaving steps off processes. I have much yet to learn.
A well-known east coast sales professional and his organization keep offering me a program to get better at connecting with “VITO”, or the Very Important Top Officer of the company. I won’t be signing up while I’m working in this market. That kind of talk is, firstly, what I’m already good at, and secondly, precisely the kind of noise that will freak the small business owner out.
Take some time to consider it now: who are you speaking with? Choose your approach accordingly.