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Jargon Buster

FACT: Jargon has become a way of life in modern business and most of it gets in the way of clear communication.

It’s no longer acceptable to say that there are to be redundancies – instead we hear that “the organisation will be rightsizing”. People no longer ignore you, they just “take if off line”.  Does it really help corporate communication and clarity when we hear about a new concept that, “we are productising so it can be best in class in order to monetise it”?

Do these terms capture something useful or are they just an attempt to make something straightforward sound more grandiose?

Clearly there are technical terms in Sales and Management that do add value to communication. They can make complex concepts clearer. BUT they can confuse and obstruct understanding. It can be particularly challenging in multi-cultural environments.

Here’s our guide on how to differentiate between the useful technical terms and the empty jargon.

Useful Technical Terms

CROSS SELLING

Leveraging existing relationships in order to make additonal sales to existing customers (e.g. new products or new areas of their business you’re not currently selling to). If you are not cross-sellling effectively you’re probably “leaving money on the table”.

UP-SELLING

Converting an initial order into a larger or more profitable order. For example you might get a customer to purchase a premium rather than standard version of a product.

SCALEABLE

Means that something is flexible for large or small requirements. The concept conveys that you can start small with something but that it has capacity to be built upon subsequently.

CUSTOMER CENTRIC

A term to reflect the age old concept that the customer is always right. The idea is that organisations need to be focussed on their customers and put customers at the heart of everything they do, from marketing to product development, sales and everything in between. Customer driven is the same idea.

MATRIX MANAGEMENT

This is the idea of people reporting to more than one manager, so for example a finance manager reporting to a finance director and also to a business unit director. Sometimes one manager is the primary or “line” manager and the other manager has a “dotted line” relationship with the employee; Meaning that the “line” manager performs the management functions such as appraisals and pay reviews but that the employee is accountable to both managers.

CROSS FUNCTIONAL TEAMS

Cross functional teams consist of people from different parts of the business (e.g. different functions such as sales, marketing, operations) focused on a common goal. In the case of a cross functional account team the common goal would be a customer for example.

VIRTUAL TEAMS

Now the business world is a “Global Village” it’s common to have groups of people working physically remotely on a project in several different locations, possibly several different countries. These teams can also be CROSS FUNCTIONAL. A virtual team therefore is a group of people with a common goal or project who are either geographically or functionally dispersed, or both. Members of the team often report to many different people or have a MATRIX MANAGEMENT structure.

NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT

Within sales organisations national account management is usually used to indicate the bigger accounts with a national reach. This usually differentiates these accounts from smaller/ more regional accounts and helps sales organisations clearly segment their customer base.

KEY ACCOUNTS

In most business the Pareto rule applies to customers. i.e. 20% of the customers provide 80% of the business. Businesses have many different ways of segmenting their customers and identifying their top accounts and “key account” is often used to indicate one of these top accounts.

GLOBAL ACCOUNTS

I.e. accounts with businesses in locations all around the world. They are often designated as KEY ACCOUNTS

GLOBAL / KEY ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT

Key account management refers to the systems and processes used to manage the top accounts. It can refer to the level of managers involved, the CRM system, the business processes such as planning, forecasting or contact management.

CHANNEL MANAGEMENT

Businesses sometimes need or want to sell their products/ services indirectly, i.e. not to the final consumer of their products. The indirect route is known as a channel. Channel management therefore refers to the structure, systems and processes used to manage channels.

CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT (or BUSINESS ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT)

Customer management can be merely borne out of a desire to avoid saying “sales” which many people in the industry and particularly people in professional services hate labeling themselves as! However it does have a meaningful definition. Customer management is a term for the sales function that is often used to try and indicate that it’s not just about selling “Product” to a customer but about a much more rounded and holistic approach to managing the relationship with that customer and adding value to them.

TRADE MARKETING

Many organisations have a trade marketing department that acts as an interface between sales and marketing. In the past part of it was predicated on the idea that clearly sales people were too dim to deal with marketing directly and had to have someone in between to translate!! The trade marketing department were also responsible for marketing at a more local/ customer specific level than the marketing department.

COMMODITISATION

A commodity is something that customers (consumers or businesses) perceive to be of uniform quality and value. If they also have plenty of alternatives then they have decisions to make.  If customers don’t see much difference in value between your offering and the competitions, then price is the only way to make a choice. Its impact in all industries is to drive down pricing, profitability and hence to slow growth and to weaken relationships between customers and suppliers. The information age has made it easy for customers to make comparisons and opt for the cheapest price if they can’t see much differentiation.

VALUE ADDED

The only way to beat the downward spiral of commoditisation is to add value. This means you have to be fully aware of and able to articulate clearly and powerfully the incremental value your products/ organisation offers. To do this you need to have deep knowledge and understanding of your customer and their needs & organise around THEIR perception of value.

VALUE PROPOSITION

A value proposition is an analysis and quantified review of the benefits, costs and value that an organisation can deliver to customers. It is also a positioning of value where Value =(benefits – costs). It is essentially the rounded, holistic offering that you can bring to your customers.

U.S.P (Unique Selling Point)

Your USPs are the unique features of your product or service that differentiate you from the competition. Your USPs can be part of your value proposition.

GRANDIOSE JARGON

(i.e. non- added value, pompous jargon that obstructs clear communication)

HEADS UP

This is an American term for being alert and aware, often with a connotation of giving someone an early warning of something. For me it conjures up images of meerkats, or people in offices full of cubicles popping their heads over the top of the partition like the little furry creatures!

RAISE THE BAR

I think this means raise standards higher but clearly the analogy from that main stream sport of high jumping works well for people?!

BEST IN CLASS

Best in the Category? Group? Area? Competition?? This is classic smokescreen jargon that is vague and meaningless but is grandiose sounding. But what a pointless thing to say, who aims to be worst??

LEVERAGE

It means let’s use what we’ve got to improve things – but that’s far too easy isn’t it… !

PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Push it where? And why? This is the next generation of “thinking outside the box”. This means to try new things and be a bit creative but what the unsuspecting envelope has to do with it I don’t know.

TOUCH BASE

A baseball analogy largely lost on us Brits, meaning to check things are OK.

BLUE SKY THINKING

A colourful phrase meaning to broaden your thinking. What happens if the sky is grey on your “blue sky away day” ??

BRAIN DUMP

Don’t think this refers to the waste products from your brain! The concept is to jot down all the ideas that come to mind on any given topic.

TAKE OWNERSHIP

Meaning to accept responsibility, part of your job description surely? Does this really need separate jargon?

LOW HANGING FRUIT

This means that organisations should look to capitalise on the easy opportunities before trying the harder ones. Jargon clearly needed here to disguise the fact you’re stating the obvious.

GO TO MARKET

Is a go to market strategy a tautology? Surely your plans and strategies are about how you sell to a market? Maybe strategy is a word so over used more jargon needed to be invented to make it sound more significant.

BANDWIDTH

This is usually a techie’s way of saying that they don’t have time to fulfill your request. It means the time or capacity people or organisations have available.

TRACTION

Meaning getting some movement on an initiative. What’s wrong with saying you’re making progress??

TAKE OFFLINE

This means someone doesn’t want to answer your question, certainly not in public. Easier to hide behind the jargon than saying “I don’t want to talk about this”

PUSH BACK

If you don’t want to say your idea has been rejected you can instead “experience a little push back” so much nicer than disagreement or rejection!

STEP UP TO THE PLATE

This means to rise to the challenge, Americans claim it as a baseball analogy to do with the batting plate but the Brits claim it is an older analogy around steam engines and boiler plates!

HEADS UP

“Thanks for the heads up” means thanks for the warning or the advanced notice. The reference is to people putting their heads above their cubicles to see what’s coming towards them. Is the encouragement to act like a Meerkat really necessary?

SWEAT THE ASSET

“We have a good distributor network and we really need to sweat the asset”. This means to get the best use out of your resources. (Your resources can be for example people, machines, buildings or money). Why do we need quite such a graphic, biological analogy ?

RUN IT UP THE FLAG POLE

This means to try out an idea by letting people see it, in order to get some feedback and gauge how people feel about it. What’s wrong with “let’s talk to people about this idea”?

REACH OUT

People don’t want to talk  anymore, or to arrange a meeting, they want to REACH OUT to you;  “We want to reach out to you”. Does this imply some kind of deep and meaningful message they want to convey, maybe some kind of spiritual experience? No, it turns out that it just meant they wanted a common or garden variety of meeting !

TOWN HALL MEETING

This is simply an informal meeting in which all employees are invited to share their views (in theory at least) – it’s a friendly term!!

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Jargon Buster

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