Solutioning. Share of wallet. Bolt-in. Interfacing. Ever deal with jargon like this in your sales work? It’s all right if the answer is yes. We’ve all heard and used industry-speak in our day to day dealings.

Do you know the price that can come with jargon, however? It’s that, when it comes to clients and prospects, understanding when and how to deploy complicated terms can win or lose the sale. 

The stakes are high. Every word counts.

“Jargon, euphemisms, psychobabble, unnaturally elevated business-speak, all raise barriers in people more frequently than they lower them,” said Barry Maher, business motivational speaker and author of No Lie: Truth is the Ultimate Sales Tool. “Even people who might mistake them for signs of intelligence are often turned off.”

If word choices can threaten and undo your best work in a moment of confusion, let’s turn to some experts in the field who can help us steer toward better scenarios. The goal is to speak the right way to the right clients at the right time, keeping clear of the barriers that simple jargon blunders can create.

  • Jargon can be a pitfall for the sales rep who misuses it. First things first, jargon can get a sales rep into hot water. Use it in the wrong way once with a knowledgable client and you brand yourself as ignorant. End of the sales conversation, in all likelihood. Simple solution: if you aren’t certain you understand an element of business speak, don’t use it.
  • Customers buy what they understand. Is the value of your product really about "helping a company align and integrate their sales planning platforms" or is it rather that your service "consolidates customer data into one report"? As Steven Baumgartner of Blossom Growth Partners put it: “One description explains what you do. The other does not … Do I want [reps] to focus on ‘share of wallet’ or do I want them to ‘sell multiple products to the same customer’ … The directive to sell multiple products is actionable while ‘share of wallet’ has to be translated.”
  • Confusion leads to 'no'. “If you sell computers and start asking a technology novice about operating systems and memory, they will be more likely to seek out another salesperson who begins by asking how much experience the buyers have with computers,” said Tom Hopkins, chairman of Tom Hopkins International, a sales consultancy. “You've made them feel dumb or you have confused them. And, confused minds say no. It's a natural protective device of the human psyche.”
  • Industry terms can still work in your favor, however. All of this caution doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when you can deploy a word or two of jargon to good effect. “Some of the clients we serve are in the industry and appreciate jargon as a means of streamlined or to-the-point communication,” said Brendan Barrett, business development director in Arizona for EagleLIFT, a building- and soil-stabilization contractor. “The use of jargon can also help establish credibility among our less technically trained sales- and business -development staff.” On the other hand, Barrett noted, newer comers to the industry don’t always respond well to a mountain of engineering terminology. “Jargon when communicating with these clients can definitely make them feel out of their depth and fearful of making a purchasing decision.”
  • Listen to your clients’ use of language: lean into it. So, how does your sales team know which way to lean … more jargon or less? The answer lies in the client’s language. Listen to how they speak, look at the way they publish or promote themselves online, and base your use of jargon and industry terms around the level of expertise they broadcast. If they drop a term here or there, so can you. If they use plain old nouns and verbs all the time, follow their lead for the most part. A single instance of jargon can suggest your sales expertise, but primarily lean into what they have to say — and how they say it.


If there’s a bottom line out there, it might well rely upon the data we already have about sale–client communications. According to a 2014 industry survey, analysts at The Alternative Board found that more than half of polled business owners evaluate vendor outreach to be too sales oriented.

“It is common marketing knowledge that customers are getting smarter, and sales jargon is likely to turn them off,” said Dave Scarola, vice president of TAB. “The most powerful sales approach is to educate the customer.”

When the goal is to help both sides learn as much as they can about each other, using mutually helpful language means that clients and sales reps walk away with an appreciation for the value of the product, and the value of the real-talk based relationships your interactions have helped to grow.

Get free guide now

PHOTO: Creative Commons: Pixabay: Bruce Emmerling:

Let Us Know What You Thought of the Article.

Leave a Comment Below.