How to Avoid Toxic Jargon Syndrome - by Elliot Epstein


I love federal elections – the marginal seat analysis, the gaffes and the wonderful way truth is an afterthought in the campaign. If we sold technology products and services the way the politicians sell us their policies we’d either have a very busy help desk or an entire law firm handling litigation in the basement.

The ultimate killer is the jargon. Bile inducing phrases like "moving forward" and "stand up for real action" combined with the pithy and inane "we (insert your political party of choice) are concerned with prosperity, the future of working families, the protection of our borders" blah, blah blah.

I won’t even mention the deposed Kevin Rudd’s language of "program specificity" and what it did for his career.

Do we buy it? Is it going to change your vote on August 21?

So we sit around and read the weekend papers, watch the news or tune in to Kerry O’Brien interviewing some over-rehearsed, coiffed pollie trotting out this stuff and guffaw at the banality of it all.

Yet, come Monday morning what do we do?

We find ourselves presenting to a client, meeting an IT manager, discussing an account with our vendor rep and what comes out of our mouths?

Here are just a few real life examples from coaching sales people and their presentations.

‘We have a holistic, end to end solution’ (Do you – I hope it didn’t hurt’)

‘This represents a paradigm shift in the way you manage your network’ (I had a paradigm shift once, but then ran out of toilet paper)

‘We’re looking at a partnership that when implemented will lead to a joint strategy and a win-win outcome’ (Yeah, I want one, whatever it is)

‘We are extremely customer focused’ (as opposed to what’)

‘We’re going to move the goal posts on this deal’ (doesn’t that make it hard to score?)

‘We have an unrivalled, experienced engineering team that implements best practice methodologies’ (please insert world class, leading or best of breed as you see fit)

That’s enough. The impact on clients is the same as the impact on voters. It does nothing to progress the chances of people being persuaded to another point of view. It doesn’t differentiate and at its worst, it just causes people to tune out. These are not great qualities especially if you are trying to win a new piece of business.

There is an easy technique that overcomes this whole issue.

Use unmitigated, concrete language.

Here are a few examples:

‘We have six accredited engineers who all have experience implementing the system we’re proposing and will easily be able to do that in the timeframe at the price we’ve discussed’

‘This solution will save you between 25- 30% of your current storage costs in the first eighteen months’

‘We have 24 people in our contact centre available 365 days a year to handle all level 1 calls, so we can support the system from day one’

This is much deeper than buzzword bingo because it permeates meetings, proposals, presentations and day to day sales calls because it’s a bad habit constantly repeated.

It takes 21 days to break a habit and establish a new one .

Let’s build some new sales behaviours by the time we have a prime minister in the Lodge. It’s Time.


Chris Pattas

Chris Pattas lives in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. He is happily married with two children. Chris is a successful business leader who enjoys helping organisations reach their full potential. Whether it is driving greater profit or sales, growing market share in competitive industries, inspiring executives to achieve great things, negotiating compelling business deals or working as a board member implementing exciting change programs, he knows how to get the most out of any organisation. Chris has worked in various product and service industries including: advertising, software, IT&T, travel & tourism, utilities and telecommunications. His interests and expertise include: leadership & strategy, sales & marketing, online & social media, science & technology, travel & tourism, photography and music.