The language of the customer

This morning I was working on some slides for a sales training I will do for a vendor these days. When clicking through my slides I found some older slide I have used some three years ago the first time. It was about the sometimes different understanding customers and vendors might have of the same terms - or the missing understanding of terms by the customers.Terms like Meta Directory, Federation, Virtual Directory, Reconciliation, and so on.

In this context, a conversation I recently had with Hassan Maad, COO of Evidian (one of the definitely underestimated vendors in the market), some weeks ago. He said that from his experience the term "access" is much more meaningful to the customer than "identity". He is right - everyone can imagine what we are talking about when we talk about "access". "Identity", on the other hand, is a more fuzzy term.

Another recent experience was about the way vendors are selling there tools. In a current strategic consulting project, I had a discussion with the customer about the evaluation of tools. The customer had had several sales presentations from different vendors. When comparing the customers rating of the vendors with our view, there were in some two cases really big differences. The reason for this: The sales people had used their common, typical terms, didn't focus on the needs of the customer and, in one case, focused on an architectural approach which the vendor has significantly changed over the last two or three years. Looks like the sales guys once have learned some USPs (unique selling propositions) which appeared to be "unique", but not necessarily "selling". While the vendor adopted his product, the sales guys are still using these old Non-USPs instead of telling the new story.

There is something common within these obversations: In every case it is about hitting or missing the expectations of the customer. It is very easy to loose in using terms which the customer either doesn't understand or misinterprets. It is as well very easy to loose pitches in telling the wrong story, either an ancient one or one that misses the expectations of the customer.

Thus, it might be a good idea for the entire industry to rethink their wording. Take "reconciliation" - not that easy to understand, especially for people whose native language isn't English. Or "entitlement management": I've never met anyone who understood that without further explanation. Not that bad for us analysts, because explaining things is part of our business.

And, if your job is about selling Identity and Access Management or GRC (Governance, Risk Management, Compliance), it is always a good idea to first think about the "customer customer" (whom are you talking with - and which are his obvious business needs?), the industry (not every industry has the same requirements), and to talk about the requirements of the customer first before talking about your solution. Listen, than talk. And talk in a language everyone can understand - or shortly explain the specific terms you can't avoid.


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