We coordinate the visit, discuss what we hope to accomplish, and I make the journey to your workplace. The arrival goes as planned and after we exchange a few pleasantries, we begin our day.
Our first stop is a weekly meeting that you, your boss, and your colleagues conduct every Monday morning at 9 a.m. sharp. After everyone settles into their seats, you introduce me to the room. Another round of pleasantries transpires and he meeting begins.
Everything is going well.
I feel welcome and comfortable.
Then, it happens…
Within a few moments, I’m lost. As if a switch was thrown, everyone in the room begins to speak another language. Acronyms are bantered about and computer names whiz past me.
Suddenly, people are saying things like…
“In light of the SPS report, I understand that Q1 is likely going to be incompatible to the results achieved during the Jim-tronix launch. In all likelihood Team Pixel will need to adjust their forecast for Global Network Accounts to offset the change and ensure that the Q4 adjustment is recaptured in TMS.”
Every organization has its own language, its own way of communicating.
I get that.
Your language helps to define your culture; it allows for a faster exchange of ideas; its familiar and comfortable.
That’s the good news.
There’s some bad news too.
Most customers don’t care about your language; they already speak their own language. They aren’t interested in becoming bilingual in that regard. They care about their challenges and finding a solution to address their specific issue.
Of course, there are exceptions to this premise. Certain companies have created terms that people latch onto and phrases that change the collective vernacular.
- Disney Parks use terms like cast members instead of employees, attractions vice rides, and guests in lieu of customers.
- Google became a verb
- Twitter has adults, even the U.S. President, saying words like “Tweet” and expressing gratitude that they can now write 280 characters. The word Twitter is so well known that people are even paying $1,620 for a shirt that reads “More Glitter Less Twitter.” Don’t believe me, click here.
The reality is that these situations are relatively rare.
You may believe that your idea is unique, perhaps groundbreaking. You may think your language or internal jargon is creative, fun, or a differentiator.
Who knows? You may be right, but you may also be wrong. Being wrong could be costing you business.
Consider these questions:
- How might your language be slowing down the sale?
- How might your language be creating confusion for your client?
- Have you and your team members become more focused on your language than your clients problems?
- How has your team fallen into the trap of trying to make distinctions where there really are no differences?
Don’t force customers to learn a new language. Do the hard work to understand their lexicon and translate your language for them. In the long run, it will be well worth the effort.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.