IN TODAY’S complex world, jargon is everywhere — whether it is a technical term (do many people really know what an algorithm is?); an abbreviation (ST — as in The Straits Times — has 260 alternative meanings according to acronymfinder.com); or blends (romcom for romantic comedy, Statdec for Statutory Declaration).
When you should use jargon
If you are communicating with your peers, jargon is essential. It is needed for efficient communication and it also serves an important “bonding” role.
In any business, industry or profession, jargon is the common language and using it shows that you are an “insider”.
When you should not use jargon
If you are using jargon so that you will sound like an “insider”, be aware that this is generally very transparent to the real professionals. So rather than impressing them, using jargon will have the opposite effect.
If you are using jargon to try and baffle your customer or intimidate him by making him feel stupid, be aware that it will only confuse him and chase him away.
Sir Richard Branson recently posted this on his blog: “Some people love speaking in jargon, using fancy words and turning everything into acronyms.
“Personally, I find this simply slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest.”
In some industries, technical terms are everywhere — especially in the financial sector.
As somebody who didn’t understand the difference between “net” and “gross” for many years, I have always preferred financial issues to be explained clearly.
A few years ago, my team and I were looking into investing money in a financial company. The person I was talking to said: “We only have a 5 per cent bid offer spread.”
Later I asked one of my team members what the man was talking about.
He explained that the person was using jargon as a way of hiding the fact that the financial company was taking 5 per cent before we even started!
Sometimes, there are more sinister reasons for using jargon, and it is all too easy to fall foul of these tricks.
How you can use jargon
Customers may want you to use your industry jargon because it makes you sound more knowledgeable and experienced and this gives them confidence.
But they also don’t want you to confuse them.
So how do you find the right balance?
The answer is based on two principles of great sales communication:
• Great companies educate their customers about the industry and how to get the best out of them.
• In an age of information overload, people don’t initially want new information from you — they want you to help them make sense of the information already in their head.
The skill that can be used to apply this is what I call “self-paraphrasing”, that is, paraphrasing or restating something in your own words.
So, if you use a piece of jargon, paraphrase that piece of jargon within a sentence or two.
For example, “…so, at the IPO, your return will be many times what you can achieve anywhere else.
“This is because when they take this Initial Public Offering to the share market and offer shares to the wider market, it can be timed when the shares will attract the highest price.”
By doing this you are, firstly, educating your customers because this may be the first time they really understand what a piece of jargon means.
They will have heard it before — which is what stops them from asking you what it means. Because they have heard it before, they think they should understand it and asking would make them feel stupid.
You have given them value by assisting their understanding.
This will improve their decision-making confidence and make it more likely they will come back to you next time.
Secondly, you have helped them make sense of a piece of jargon already in their head.
Use jargon carefully and it will build your customer’s understanding, buying confidence and loyalty to you.
Article by Kevin Ryan, managing director of Training Edge Australia and author of TILT — Selling To Today’s Buyer (the second edition with additional material by Looi Qin En is out now). For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com