Connect With The Customer By Using His Jargon-Not Yours

Tribe is not a bad thing; it’s just twisted to be so. When one is obviously struggling to speak in English or Kiswahili and, judging from their accent or name, you switch to speaking in one’s vernacular, an emotional bond is quickly formed.

“You are so anti-jargon,” a reader told me. “What if it’s the client’s jargon you are using?”

It’s true. I am vehemently opposed to the use of jargon when selling because it impedes the sales process; using jargon erects walls instead of laying bridges. It runs the risk of making the client feel inferior or embarrassed; it confuses the client and wastes both yours and his time because conversation is not flowing-you are talking but not communicating. And yes, if it’s one farm consultant (or engineer) talking to a farm manager (or another engineer) about the use of beneficial insects (or variable resistor) and they both use jargon, it is fine. They understand each other. And I’m guessing I’ve just lost you with the jargon I’ve used there, which is my point exactly. When selling, actively avoid the use of your industry’s jargon. But, to answer the reader’s question, by all means, enthusiastically use the prospect’s industry jargon.

When you’re selling to an expert and you use his jargon, he feels you understand his situation-and you want that. Have you ever noticed, how one’s eyes light up in pleasant surprise when you start speaking in one’s mother tongue? Tribe is not a bad thing; it’s just twisted to be so. When one is obviously struggling to speak in English or Kiswahili and, judging from their accent or name, you switch to speaking in one’s vernacular, an emotional bond is quickly formed. The struggling party suddenly gushes with information and becomes more expressive. There’s even a term for this: social selling. The bond is even stronger when they realise that you are not a kinsman. Because it means you have taken the trouble to learn their language. Many times they will even forgive and correct the occasional error you make.

When selling, it’s no different. When I’m selling a core banking system (the one that runs all bank operations) to a banker, I want to confidently use terms like amortize, audit trail, general ledger, spool reports, reducing balance, and clinically show how my product seamlessly interacts with each of them. Not only is the buyer moved, the sale moves faster because the buyer need not strain looking to explain technical terms in lay fashion. And you can pick his jargon from research or better still, past successive sales interactions with his peers. Caution: In the same way the switch to mother tongue will elicit a moment of camaraderie inspired banter, with animated questions like, “where did you learn that?”, when selling, that chit-chat should be wisely contained by you the seller; otherwise the bonding can drive the sale at a tangent. It’s true that on the basis of that sudden friendship alone, the seller can buy the product, but let that be the exception not the norm.

As with everything else in selling, genuineness is critical. Pretending to know the jargon and repeatedly making errors doesn’t connect you with the buyer-it just irritates him. And he extrapolates that to mean you don’t care enough for his problem and probably didn’t even understand it in the first place. Naturally, the sale is lost. Also, unless you are certain that your understanding of the term is synonymous with that of the buyer, exercise restraint with the use of his jargon. You don’t want to appear a show off nor do you want to misinterpret a technical term. Therefore, it is wise to occasionally ask, “So by qualified report you mean…Is that correct?” That way the buyer takes and keeps the lead in the use of jargon.

Every industry has its own jargon and you may be an expert in yours; your buyer possibly isn’t. Buyers are looking for guidance from sales people, not confusion. Wisely using the buyer’s language is a shining beacon that guides to a faster close. And in case you’re wondering, variable resistor is jargon for volume knob.

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