Beware of the seduction of jargon – a sales tip

Sales Tip

“Leave the jargon at home” is something that sales people are told over and over again. But from time to time even the best fall prey to the linguistic seduction of jargon.

If you turn to our friends at Webster, the short definition of jargon is – “incoherent speech – gibberish.”  Gibberish, now that definitively sounds like something we do not want to interject into a sales call.

In sales, jargon can come in a variety of verbal forms. But two are most common. Type 1 is technical jargon. It’s certainly easy to fall into the jargon trap when technical products are being sold and/or you have a technical background. While there is clearly a need for technical conversations in some sales process – one can certainly have a comprehensive technical discussion without lapsing into the use of technical jargon i.e. gibberish.

Now that technical jargon is on the table – let’s focus on Type 2– company jargon. All companies are full of their own “speak” that finds its way into every employees’ vocabulary – including sales reps. While there are many benefits to having a shared language, one of them isn’t sharing that common language with customers. They don’t know your language and frankly, don’t care to learn it.  The particularly telling aspect of company jargon is that it reflects a company-centric focus on the sales reps’ part – not a customer-centric focus … the exact opposite of what a sales rep is trying to portray.

With all this being said, there are four situations where it is particularly easy to be lured into the jargon trap during sales calls:

  • When there is a need to have an in-depth technical discussion with a non-technical customer.
  • When calling on someone in your field or discipline.
  • When you have a shorter period of time for the sales call than anticipated.
  • When you are making a joint sales call with someone else in your organization.

This is one of those “sales traps” that everyone knows is a bad thing – but from time to time most also fall off the wagon.  Unfortunately it can sometimes have a more negative impact than be might imagine.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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