“Displaying your intelligence to the buyer is displaying stupidity”

Remain Dumb. Stupidity gets you places in selling. Yes, I know. You’ve been told that speaking intelligently and looking intelligent gets you places. True. And in this taking selfies, peer driven, Keeping Up With the Kardashians world, it will. But not in selling. To thrive in selling, many times you will be moving against the societal grain. Yes, I know. You have two degrees, one which is from Harvard. You also have a degree in law and read widely. That’s good. Keep it up. In any case, education is meant for empowerment, never examination, as is so commonly flaunted.

Display intelligence, display stupidity

However, displaying your intelligence to the buyer is displaying stupidity. Confused? Then you are too intelligent. Let me explain in three phases. First, the sale is not about you and never will be; the sale has always been, and will always be, about how you will help the buyer. As such, you don’t want the buyer to feel stupid or intimidated from your comparative eloquence in the English language, or your mention of myocardial infarction because heart attack is beneath you to say, and is not quite the same you insist. Successful radio show hosts, quickly adapt to the caller’s intelligence. If the breakfast show is hosted in English and the caller can only manage Kiswahili and a smattering of English, but has a point to make, the adept host will bring himself to his level and will then speak or interpret in English for the other listeners to follow, and to retain the show’s brand. Insisting on speaking in Queen’s English because he “cannot be seen (heard?) to be stupid,” will disconnect him from the caller (thereby missing the valuable point) and alienate the other listeners. (Sensitive ones will even notice the pride and belittling).

Stupidity doesn’t know

Secondly, if you are going to help the buyer you must understand his problem and to understand his problem you must ask questions. Initially, by researching the buyer to understand him better and focus the discussion. And then, and this is where stupidity takes you places, remaining dumb enough to ask insightful questions during the sales interview even if you know (or think you know) the answer. There’s this irritating phrase many people make in the desperate hope that they will not appear stupid and yet this is exactly what happens. Halfway through a conversation, they say, “I know” and yet they don’t. Successful salespeople don’t know even when they do. The Waswahili say, “Ukiujua huu, huu huujui” meaning you can’t know everything and even that which you think is your specialty, you can still learn something new about. And to learn something new means to listen actively– with your eyes, ears, nose, hands and very little of your mouth. In fact, your mouth is meant to ask insightful questions, clarify for understanding and demonstrate genuine interest. But to ask questions you must remain dumb enough to learn and to absorb.

To be intelligent, be dumb

Lastly, being dumb is not easy for the intelligent mind. You must be extremely intelligent to be dumb. It has been observed that actors who play dumb parts best are those that border on genius. And as Einstein once observed, “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.” To succeed in selling one must be dumb enough to say just enough to close and intelligent enough to hold an intelligent conversation when required to; one must be dumb enough to explain to his lay wife how the complex water treatment plant works and intelligent enough to use simple language in a way that the wife will not feel demeaned.

Displaying your intelligence to the buyer is displaying stupidity. Still confused? Then you’re too intelligent.


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