sales-tactics-201x300You offer a great product or service, but somehow your sales team cannot close the big deals when it should. The problem might be your salespeople are so focused on the sales pitch they are not explaining in a way that makes sense to customers.

One thing is for certain—customers won’t buy what they don’t understand.

So says Lee LeFever, founder of Common Craft, and a contributor to HBR Blog Network. He contends we have to “think differently about how we explain ideas” during the sales process.

He likens the sales process to the famous line from Glengary Glen Ross: Always be closing. But suggests we change it to "always be explaining." He says effective explanations must come if you want to make the sale.

Think about how often you go into a meeting, armed with your curse of knowledge and your company jargon. The prospect rarely wants to ask you what you mean when you say you want to "socialize an idea" because they do not want to look dumb, but they will remember how you made them feel after you leave.

Create the Close through Effective Explanations

LeFever goes on to say how important it is to make prospects feel like they are the smartest people in the room:

Understanding the basics of explanation can serve as a remedy for The Curse of Knowledge and help us think differently about how we explain ideas. This is especially true in the sales process. Whether it is on the convention floor, in the executive suite, or during a product presentation, honing your explanation skills convinces your audience that you understand their needs.

Following are six tips to create effective explanations.

Make Your Customer Feel Smart

Sharing industry jargon and over-elaborate background information makes you look like an expert, but you also often end up with a confused customer. Instead, LeFever says, tailor your explanations to build the customer’s knowledge and confidence in your products.

Dazzle them with clarity; it’s another kind of brilliance.

Talk About the Forest, Not Just the Trees

Emphasizing cool product features does not address the broader issue of why a customer should care about what you have to offer. LeFever advises “zooming out and focusing on context at the beginning of an explanation” so customers understand why your product should matter to them.

Go Easy on the Details

In the same respect, be scant in the details you provide to the customer. Too much information is no use to someone who is already confused.

“The antidote to confusion is often less information,” LeFever notes. Instead, convey the value of your product in “one or two big ideas” that are easier to comprehend.

Use More Visuals, Less Copy

When prospects fail to get the message, one common sales tactic is to provide more marketing copy. But using more words is like piling on more details—a lot of effort expended with little to show for it.

As LeFever notes, audiences today are “more visually literate than ever.”

Rather than bombard them with copy, offer infographics, videos, and diagrams to better explain your product.

Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding platform, encourages applicants to explain their ideas via videos, which offer “a simple and compelling way to understand a new idea and why it matters.”

People Like Stories

A customer had a problem and your product offered the perfect solution. Just like that, you have a story—and customers enthusiastically respond to stories.

This is how they come to empathize, and picture themselves solving similar problems.

Always Focus on “Why?”

Early in your presentation, address the most important question of all: Why should the prospective customer care about your product or service?

Get this clear at the outset to enable people to understand more complex ideas later.

How many built-in assumptions lurk in your sales pitch? Review it through the eyes of a prospect who doesn’t know a thing about your product or service. Then rewrite it to clearly and succinctly explain why it matters to them.

Are you selling, rather than explaining the value of your products or services?