Stop using these stale sales words.

by Shannon F.

The world is cynical when it comes to sales and marketing professionals. We don’t trust them, envisioning pyramid schemes and faulty vacuum cleaners. We hang up on their cold calls, mark their emails as spam, and hope they won’t engage us in conversation at parties. But I happen to think that bringing B2B sales out of the dark ages can be accomplished with a major vocabulary overhaul. If sales and marketing people couldn’t use words, phrases, metaphors, and analogies from the following categories, they’d be forced to come up with creative new ways of expressing themselves.

Sports metaphors

Is anyone else tired of hearing phrases like, “hit it home,” “knocked it out of the park,” or “covered all bases?” If only sales were as exciting as a ball game. Plus, everyone likes different activities, so maybe, “I really went to the library on that deal,” or, “I gardened the heck out of my competition” would be more inclusive. If you must use a sports metaphor, at least try to pick a slightly less obvious athletic pursuit, e.g. “I certainly dropped the discus on that one.”

“Leverage” as a verb

“Leverage” is a noun, i.e. “I gained leverage during the bidding war by offering my services as a consultant.” (The verb form is ‘lever.’) You can’t “leverage” your sales tools any more than you can “strategy” or “maximum” them. I know that leverage as a noun has come into common usage; I just hate it. (If you would like to leverage the dictionary to win this argument, Webster is actually on your side.)

Weasel words

InsightPRM recently received a mail piece from a B2B organization that helps companies to “right-size” employees—yet another irritating and somehow even more insensitive euphemism for “fire.” Other recent offenders I’ve heard include “reverbiagize” (reword), “go granular” (be more detailed), and “disintermediate” (eliminate the middleman). Business buzzwords aren’t going anywhere—new ones are conceived every year—but salespeople should attempt to be as clear and straightforward as they can when communicating with prospects and customers.

Analogies to hunting/fishing

Prospects are people. They aren’t fish that can be netted, caught, landed, or breaded and fried. They aren’t big game that you can track, hunt down, or poach. Today’s customers want to be engaged and informed, not pursued in a predatory manner. Salespeople that really want to help their customers find a solution to a particular problem are bound to be more successful than those who just want another set of antlers on the wall.

Everyone has different hang-ups when it comes to the language of sales and marketing. Feel free to ignore my personal peeves, and share some of your own in the comments.

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