JCL Blog

Same Words Different Meaning

One of the best parts of my job is meeting new people and throwing around ideas. Ideas are a big part of marketing and everyone has some they are working on.  During these situations, particularly with someone I have just met, it is not uncommon for me to get well into the conversation and wonder -- are we really talking about the same thing?  It is amazing.  Two people in the same industry with the same native language with the proactive intent to effectively communicate -- well into a conversation and possibly not actually communicating at all.

Use The Simplest Word Available (and get the job done)

My most often cited example of this comes from about ten years ago.  We were pitching a senior member of a medium sized technology firm on some ideas we had for making their channel partner program more effective.  These were not exotic ideas and were based on our core inside sales services.  In a nutshell we were proposing to use our call center capacity for hire to help them sell more stuff.  After 45 minutes of lively dialog about our ideas, processes, reporting, success measures, and all the rest our prospect stopped us and said:  "Thanks and I am sure you have a great system but we just spent a bunch of money on a new CRM system and we are not going to rip it out, so we are not interested."  POW.  We had not set the thing up right, he thought we were a software company, and all of our service speak just got translated in his head into that framework.  Oh was that humbling and I can think of at least a dozen things we learned the hard way that day -- like the dangers of describing simple things with big complex words.

Here is a quote from Hemingway on the subject:  "...He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use."  We should always use the simplest words available. 

Since then we have actually added software to our call center services -- so the job of describing what we do has gotten even harder.  Like everyone in our business we need to work hard to speak plainly and directly.  I struggle to find a good reason to  talk about the Pareto Principal instead of the 80/20 rule.  Sure you sound fancier, but isn't the goal to make your point?  If the other person can't remember the difference between that and Parkinson's Law you may have lost them from the conversation for good.