Geek Speak II - The Awakening
Geek-Speak or techno-babble is pervasive. It seems that we are so impressed with our technical knowledge and
expertise that we forget our audience. As I stated in my first article Geek-Speak, it is important to simplify, simplify, simplify.
This applies, not only to e-mail or on-line business, but to everyday usage as well.
Recently I observed a salesman in a computer store mesmerizing an elderly couple with his techno-babble. They
had come into the store looking for a computer for some very basic needs. The salesman was very impressive with his
knowledge. He talked about the clock speed of the computer. He compared the various processors and showed them the
3-D Graphics capability of the computer.
Then they were told about the 56K, V.90 modem, that they could get a DVD ROM and that, if they wanted to, they
could upgrade from 64MB of RAM to 128MB of RAM. It was obvious that he knew the product extremely well. His
technological knowledge was encyclopaedic.
Just as impressive was his monumental lack of knowledge of the customer. He never listened to them at all. They
smiled and agreed with his evaluation, thanked him for his time, and proceeded to look at other products. A few
minutes later the same salesman cornered another couple and proceeded with the same techno-babble or Geek
A few minutes later this same elderly couple were approached by another salesman who offered assistance. They
seemed reluctant to talk to him. I could only assume that they were afraid of the same barrage of Geek-Speak that
they had been subjected to before.
His first question to them had nothing to do with the computer other than asking what they were looking for.
During the next thirty minutes he talked to them about their interests. He discovered that they had a son in
Australia and a daughter in England, not to mention an extended family throughout North America.
They informed him that they were both history buffs. He also found out that she enjoyed cooking. He discovered
that they would like to stay in closer touch with their family. This was one thing that he focused on.. Not once
did he talk about DVD, RAM, ROM, clock speed, or pixels on a screen.
They had heard about e-mail but never really investigated the possibilities. They had believed that they were
past the point of obtaining any serious knowledge of computers. The first salesman reinforced this belief that
computers were too complicated. This is not to suggest that elderly people cannot become computer literate, but the
approach of the first salesman convinced them that it was beyond them.
Once the second salesman discovered something of their needs, he began talking about the simplicity of e-mail
and how they could stay in touch fairly easily. He talked about doing searches through the Internet on their
favourite history topics, and the various cooking news groups that could be accessed online.
He carefully told them about accessing information online without using technical jargon and how they could
actually send and receive pictures. The possibility of receiving pictures of their grand-children intrigued them.
They really liked the idea that, even though they may not be able to get to Australia, they could receive regular
pictures of their grand-children growing up.
When he talked about the capability of the computer, he used language that they understood. They received the
same information as they did from the first salesman, but in a language that was not peppered with impressive
Geek-Speak. He sold them on ideas that were interested in.
By the time he finished, they had bought over three thousand dollars worth of computer equipment. He did not
sell them the computer and peripherals- they were ready to but- but they just wanted to understand what they were
This kind of simplification of the techno-babble or Geek-Speak that I discussed in my first article can affect
sales, not only in a store situation, but also online. There will always be a necessity to use Geek-Speak but it is
essential to know your audience.
More sales are lost because someone, in a misguided attempt to impress their audience, confuses that same
audience with a barrage of technical jargon or Geek-Speak. One must judge the audience carefully and the first step
is to listen to the questions that are being asked.
Better still, ask questions that will elicit a response that will result in gaining some information about the
prospective purchaser. It is easy to sell someone a product that they are impressed with but that they dont need.
The most successful sales people however, are those who sell someone a product they need. The result is repeat
sales because the customer knows that their needs will be met and they wont be loaded up with peripherals that
become dust collectors.
About the Author
John Warzecha, who holds a teaching degree, a B.A., and an M.A., is V.P. of Communications at Wyka-Warzecha
Enterprises, http://www.wyka-warzecha.com/, a site devoting to helping website designers achieve
amazing special effects, streaming audio with easy to use Java based products.