To Thrive In Selling, Eliminate Jargon by overcoming Pride, Academic Intellect and Naivete

Jargon is common knowledge for those in the same industry-not outside. Jargon is a gun many salespeople inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot with.

Finally! I understood what 5mbps means. And in the process, I was also reminded of the importance of shying away from jargon when selling. Speaking English as I  call it in my sales program. This is what happened. I used to watch the award winning advert and laughed along to it but the message was lost on me.  I had no idea what 5mbps means; until last week when it was s-p-e-l-t out for me.

And no I wasn’t incredulously told, as I’d been many times before, that “that’s fast!”- which only served to compound my ignorance. Fast compared to what? I’d wonder. And then there are those who would tell me, “Duh! It means 5 mega bytes per second”- and I’d think, “Ok” and still be none the wiser. No, this person told me something different-knowing my love for movies he explained that the average movie is 700MB in size. That I knew.  He went on to explain that 5mbps means is that at that internet speed, I can download a movie in 140 (that’s 700 divided by 5) seconds, or about 2 and a half minutes. A blinding light ignited in my head…Aha! So that’s what 5mbps means. Now, if only instead of using jargon (saying 5mbps) they’d tell me I can download a movie in 2 and a half minutes; then I’d appreciate what ‘fast’ means and more importantly, the sale would become easier as what’s in it for me would be clearer. Jargon is a gun many salespeople inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot with.

Jargon is powered by three things: pride (owing to indifference), academic intellect, and naiveté. If I feel saying, “With our speeds you can download a movie in less than five minutes,” is beneath me, then I’ll retain my hubris (foolish pride) but lose the buyer and therefore the sale. It is hubris that makes me give you a look of disbelief when you ask me what 5mbps means. (How can you not know? I wonder. It’s obvious). Well, is the meaning of “the plinth area of the house is 128sq metres obvious to you? I doubt. Yet, it is to the fellow selling the house at a housing expo. Jargon is common knowledge for those in the same industry-not outside.

Sometimes it’s not pride, but academic intellect. The scientific mind reasons that the speeds may not always hold steady and committing to 2 and a half minutes will be lying. Selling is an art, not a science. What you want to demonstrate to the buyer is an appreciation of speed in a practical way- that’s the objective; it’s not to share the marking scheme. And especially in this market where time is relative, I won’t throw a tantrum and claim you lied because the movie took 5 minutes and not half the time. In fact, once I appreciate it’s fast the occasional 8 and 10 minutes will be non-issues. For instance, how often does your pizza take the 10 minutes the cashier swears by, to cook?

Naiveté, is largely borne out of internal sales training. “Those that sign on over the next 3 months will get the credit card registration (joining) fee waived,” the trainer at the bank excitedly says and shows statistics to back the promotion.  But bank staff are not bank customers. The naive salesperson will thus harp on ‘waive’ expecting the same excitement on the buyer. Instead he gets a blank stare.   The progressive salesperson on the other hand will hook the buyer with, “Excuse me Sir; do you know the bank is giving away credit cards for free?”  He’s aware that customers want to know what’s in it for them. And as difficult as it is to believe, waiving joining fee is jargon to them.

Speaking of banking, when the next “hustler” says he’s chosen your branch because it is small, he means its physical size and attention he will get. Don’t send him away by indignantly insisting, “It’s not small. Its turnover is the second only to Head office!”


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