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WHILE I wouldn't go so far as to suggest Dell's entry into the channel can be compared to Italy switching sides to join the Allies in World War Two ? the turnaround certainly came as a shock to many.

In English, mate

It’s important to remember what makes the firm so popular – and by extension what can be learned. While Dell itself would no doubt champion its wide reaching product portfolio, I would argue that its key strength is an insistence on keeping its sales pitch as simple as possible, without relying on getting customers hot by listing ever more acronym-ridden component specs.

At the PCA conference last month, Keith Warburton stressed the need to hold the hands of customers who aren’t necessarily on top of all the issues surrounding PC technology. It’s a fair point – if customers are presented with a confusing array of products with seemingly incomprehensible specifications they are going to be less willing to shell out mega-bucks required for a top-notch system.

It’s the equivalent of going into a restaurant, asking for the specials menu and being told, "Well sir, the number 14 is particularly popular. It contains 180 calories, 20 grams of saturated fats, an E14 binding agent, and mono and diacetyl emulsifiers. I’ll bundle in a side dish with that as well – you’re going to love its L-Ascorbic flour treatment agent."

Well, maybe not that extreme. But you get the picture. Not everyone knows as much about the always-evolving and often hyper-complex industry we work in – and why should they? Your customers are more likely to be accountants, vets, truck drivers or milkmen than IT experts, so why not talk to them in their language?

Presented with technical confusion, they are much more likely to go to a PC World or Tesco because they’ve seen their ads on TV, installing a more inherent trust.

On this point Selfridges (see pages 44-45) – which most people probably associate with Gucci handbags over Acer handhelds – is quietly making strong, steady growth in laptops, gadgets and associated peripherals with a concerted agenda to sweep away ultra-high tech jargon when talking to customers. Which may well be why the department store is doing so damn well at it at the moment…

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