It’s not easy ‘speaking in English’, especially for an expert (and every seller is one). And yet, the fact that your larger audience is almost always lay, the importance of doing so cannot be gainsaid.

Obfuscation. Chicanery. Subterfuge. Experts say these are the ingredients of successful politics; flummoxing the audience to leave them nonplussed. Unfortunately, inadvertently, salespeople (like politicians) do so too when they use jargon.

You must have watched the interview where this CEO IT expert was deciphering what was gobbledygook to the rest of us, but clear as day to him. It was a document presented by the opposition as proof of hacking the IEBC servers. For those who can only be living under a rock not to know about this, here are two lines of the 50 page document full of such: 08/08/2017 04:46:11, Logon, Unknown, Error: 18488<c/> Severity: 14 <c/> State: 1.. Xpstar.dll..spid53, Unknown, Option, Setting database option…PAGE_VERIFY to CHECKSUM for database IEBC_NAIROBI_COUNTY DATABASE . …Huh?

Translate jargon to English

Now, this is a sales, not a political, column, so let’s stick to selling. Borrowing from the interview, here is how such jargon can be ‘translated into English’ as I like to say.

First, what does my audience need to know? That this log file (printout/document in English) is not proof of hacking (unauthorized entry into a computer from outside, like a burglar breaking into your house). It is instead an error file (sorry, proof, that a ‘burglar’ tried to enter the system). It sounds too simplified, even unprofessional I’ve heard some say, and yet what is the purpose of selling if you are not understood?

Everyday examples

Next, what everyday examples can I use to make it easy for my (non-technical) audience to have a working (as opposed to technical) understanding of what I want to say? (Or, how my product works, or, my ideas can help them?) Being a technological quagmire, the example of the mobile phone and email come easily. And so, “the text on this print out (English for entries in this log file) is the kind that Yahoo or Gmail would show as proof that someone had unsuccessfully tried to guess your password to access your inbox.”

In addition, mobile phones used to hold 100, then 500 and now some even hold over 1000 names; they have a bigger space (or memory if you like). The IEBC database holds nineteen million names and other personal details. This entry here, ‘x86’, means that this size of space (about 4GB) cannot hold that amount of information. In fact, it is something the size of a Nokia 3310.

Read: Lessons in selling from government mistruths, half-truths and lies.

Movies and reality

I like what the CEO said in another interview. “I think a lot of us are watching too much TV which has denied us the opportunity to understand the complexities of (hacking)…” Movies and reality rarely tally which made it easy for me to question the basis of my belief that hacking had happened.

It’s not easy ‘speaking in English’, especially for an expert (and every seller is one). And yet, the fact that your larger audience is almost always lay, the importance of doing so cannot be gainsaid. As this patient (not doctor) guide at a top hospital in Kenya shows, the jargon problem is endemic: Atherosclerosis in coronary blood vessels may necessitate coronary angioplasty. Huh?


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