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Talking to people about technology

The Geek at the Trade Show

Jeffrey is and old colleague, a brilliant engineer, and a geek to the core; I ran into him on my way out of a particularly interesting session at an industry trade show. 

MurkyGrey: “Hey, Jeffrey! I didn’t know you were here!”
Jeffrey: “Yeah, they sent me this year. The sessions are quite good.”
MG: “I’m heading back to the exhibit hall, want to tag along?”
J: “No thanks, I’m trying to stay away from the exhibit hall, it’s so annoying.”
MG: “Annoying?”
J: “Yeah, a bunch of sales guys, none of them understand half of what they sell, and they all smile at you and latch onto you like leeches. They want me to buy their stuff but I don’t do any buying, that’s my boss’s job.”
MG: “Yes, it’s a jungle out there. But from what I’ve seen yesterday there’s some stuff there you might like; some new versions of tools that you already use and some new tools you may not have heard of, including two that launched this week.”
J: “But if I walk up to them, they’ll start asking me all these questions, it almost feels like they are trying to interrogate me. By the time they finally let me go I’ve told them a whole lot about my job and haven’t learned anything new about their products.”
MG: “That’s just an old sales trick, some sales people believe that by asking questions they can demonstrate their own knowledge, even establish themselves as an authority in your eyes while maintaining control over the conversation.”
J: “That’s ridiculous! Does it ever work?”
MG: “Surprisingly it does, it works very well when you sell commodities to consumers. Ask anyone whose job is to sell cars or appliances and they’ll tell you. It does not work when you’re selling complicated technology to experts, which is why it does not work here.”
J: “You see, it’s a waste of time”
MG: “It does not have to be. If I find myself under interrogation I just reply to their questions with my own. Nobody likes to look clueless so after two or three tough technical questions they stop and go get their own tech guy, that often leads to a meaningful conversation about the problem space and their solutions. I often learn new, interesting stuff this way.”
J: “That actually makes things worse for me, once I’ve caused someone to spend time with me I feel awful walking away from them without buying anything”
MG: “That’s understandable but you really should not feel bad. Nobody expects you to buy anything right away, and even in the long run they should know that a 5% conversion rate is very high for a trade show. Hey, they got to spend a few minutes talking to a handsome guy like you, they have nothing to complain about! So, what do you say? Are you coming with me?”
J: “Sure, maybe… in a minute. Hey, look! Free coffee! I’ll see you in a few!”

I made my way into the exhibit hall by myself, wondering what it might take to get more Jefferys to shed their inhibitions and step inside.

Category: For Newbies, For Senior Techies

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One Response

  1. Sonya says:

    Just need to offer them free coffee inside 😉

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