Occasionally using buzzwords or jargon won’t hurt a salesperson’s credibility, but doing so frequently will.
Tired clichés and phrases with unintentionally negative connotations make reps sound like walking product brochures, not trusted consultants.
Buyers want to do business with someone who is genuine and human -- not someone who relies on empty words to make themselves sound smarter or more impressive.
Research also shows people are less likely to believe a statement using abstract language than one using concrete language.
In other words, reps who rely on buzzwords seem less trustworthy. If they want prospects to believe them, salespeople should be as straightforward as possible.
How to Cut Out Buzzwords and Jargon
Kicking the buzzword habit can be tough. When you hear a word or phrase over and over again, it tends to sneak into your own speech -- but using a lot of jargon is a classic sales email mistake.
The first step is recognizing which words and phrases to eliminate. Next time you’re about to say or type one of the items on this list, ask yourself how you’d communicate the same idea to a young child who doesn’t know any idioms.
Here’s an email rewritten without jargon.
If you’re still struggling to speak plainly, Intuit business writer Tim Parker has two tips.
First, think like an editor and cut every word that doesn’t add meaning to your explanation.
“If a word or phrase doesn’t deliver specific details, it’s probably not making much of an impact,” Parker explains. “Consider replacing or omitting it.”
Second, Parker recommends giving examples. Rather than saying your company “has a solid track record,” tell your prospect about the typical results your clients see.
When You Should Use Jargon
Salespeople shouldn’t cut out “corporate speak” entirely. Using industry- or vertical-specific terms will help them prove their expertise and experience to buyers.
For instance, I recently listened to a call between a rep and the CEO of an artisanal coffee company. The salesperson mentioned the coffee’s “roast profile,” which immediately changed the tone of the conversation. The CEO had seemed pretty distracted. After the rep demonstrated her knowledge of the coffee space, however, he was eager to talk.
There are two different approaches to learning a prospect’s language, depending on the rep’s selling situation.
- If they’re working solely with one industry, salespeople should subscribe to that industry’s publications, attend its events, network with its experts, and read relevant books.
- If they’re working with buyers in multiple verticals and need to quickly get up to speed, reps can visit their prospects’ websites, read their email newsletters, see what executives post on LinkedIn and Twitter, and look for the most popular industry websites and note which terms come up.
It can also be helpful to search “[industry] + jargon,” “[industry] + terminology,” and “[industry] + common phrases.”
Reps should be careful not to use any terminology they don’t fully understand. Prospects will quickly lose confidence in a salesperson who bungles a basic term.
The Ultimate List of Buzzwords and Jargon to Avoid
- Push the envelope
- Get our ducks in a row
- Drill down
- Take it offline
- Boil the ocean
- Touch base
- Circle back
- Get down to brass tacks
- Give 110%
- Move the needle
- Put it on the back burner
- Cast a wide net
- Lean in
- Raise the bar
- Move up the value chain
- Run it up the flagpole
- Put boots on the ground
- Spend calories doing X
- Flex your [design, creative, analytical, etc.] muscle
- Take a step back
- Circle the wagons
- Punt (an idea)
- Peel the onion
- Build it from the ground up
- Deep dive
- Paradigm shift
- Core competency
- Window of opportunity
- Low-hanging fruit
- Big picture
- Many moving parts
- Hard stop
- 360 view
- Next generation
- In agreeance
- Mission critical
- Cut and dry
Your prospects don’t have the desire to translate a buzzword-laden explanation or email into plain English. Not only do clichés and jargon harm your credibility, they also sap your prospects’ patience and make your message less effective. Unless you’re using industry-specific jargon (correctly), try to eliminate the words and phrases that kill your sales emails.