‘What this means is that…’ Such a simple phrase, so rarely used, so costly to selling.  Here’s what I mean.

Technical language necessitates lay explanation

Technical language can be found in every industry. This could be industry or institution specific. And what it means at industry level could be different, institution. For instance, Q1 to refer to quarter one is in common industry usage but does not necessarily mean January to March. That’s the calendar Q1. An institution’s Q1, the government’s for instance, could be June to August. Further, portfolio to a nursery school teacher means the collection of all a student’s activities stored in a folder. However, portfolio to an investment manager means collection of all a client’s assets. Now imagine the investment manager going on about portfolio to his client who happens to be a nursery school teacher without using the simple phrase, “When I say portfolio, what this means is that…”

Read: To thrive in selling, eliminate jargon from your pitch

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What this means is…Condescending? I don’t think so

But it sounds condescending, you say. Maybe. And if that was your intention, it’ll show. However, even if it’s not and you do not spell out what you mean by the technical explanation, fearing looking foolish, the potential buyer (prospect) could remain mum and your sales pitch turns out to be a monologue. So best to play it safe and increase the chances of closing the sale. How? By listening with your eyes and ears and putting your neck out. If you sense a lack of comprehension put your neck out with “When I say portfolio, what I mean is that…”. If the client feels you are insulting her intelligence and her face or mouth spell this out, apologize with, “Sorry. I’ve noticed I can confuse some clients with our technical language so I usually explain it. But I see you understand so I won’t. “ Or simply, shift gears back to using portfolio without saying, “What this means is that…”  And proceed with the sale.

what this means is

Alterative use of ‘What this means is…’

Alternatively, make reference to the prospect’s statement and insert what this means in response to it. For instance, “Something we realized as we were coding. Remember the option you wanted where we list the many underwriters you have, then when a customer selects say (name of underwriter) whom you do not have a product with, it displays a notification saying contact (name of underwriter) etc. That option cannot be done as the USSD is dynamic and it refers to a database. What this means is we can only list underwriters who have a product with you. We cannot have a different customer journey for underwriters. All share the same journey, whether they have a product or not. And by customer journey, what this means is….”


You may have noticed by now that the phrase ‘What this means’ ends up showing result, outcome. What this means (see what I did there?) is that the prospect instantly sees the impact of what is being proposed. This enables the prospect to actively engage in the sales process by making decisions (towards a close) faster.

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