Selling, and measuring the progress of selling is quite a challenge. Having lived in a high tech sales culture for many years, I have listened to endless forecasts of future deals and potential sales transactions. There is probably no other profession in the world that deals with more uncertainty and guesswork than the professionals who sell high tech software products. It is fascinating work and a rich environment for studying and observing human nature. These sales professionals must:
- Persuade multiple constituencies,
- Explain the “beauty” of their products, i.e. the value and features,
- Emphasize the advantages of their products and the disadvantages of competing products, and
- Quantify the value of their product to justify the price
- Forecast their targets and progress against targets in a world that is rife with uncertainty.
Despite the squishiness, uncertainty and intangibles in this process, much of the jargon you hear out of high technology sales people as they try to forecast their progress is amazingly the opposite. Many high tech sellers use words that come from mathematics, physics and engineering to build a strong foundational façade to combat the castle of sand that is the foundation of their forecasts.
Here are some of the common and highly overused words by sales professionals that just crack me up. A short example sentence illustrates how some of these macho words are used in sales situations. My [tongue-in-cheek] comments that follow are the exclamations in the speech balloons of the smiley-face that should punctuate the end of each item.
- Traction- We have traction in this account.
[Bald tires on an icy road have traction, just not very much.]
- Momentum- We have some momentum with this deal.
[A ping-pong ball imparts momentum when it hits a brick, but not much.]
- Focus- We have an intense, laser-focus on getting this deal done this quarter.
[Soon, we will probably hear about customer fractals.]
- Trajectory- We are on a trajectory to meet our sales targets.
[Unguided missiles also have a trajectory.]
- White space- There is a lot of white space for our sales team to attack.
[White light includes all wavelengths, like sunlight at noon. This white space is pretty much the opposite—customers that we have not seen yet.]
- Optics- We need better optics on the deals forecasted to close in the quarter.
[Optics is the study of vision. We need better optics because we can’t see where we are going.]
- Dynamics- The dynamics of this deal are very complex.
[Dynamics are driving forces that cause change to a system or body. Complex dynamics usually means we don’t have any clue why the forces we have applied have not impressed the customer.]
- Engage- We need to engage with the client next week.
[This usually means: “we need to meet,” but engage sounds so much more action-oriented.]
- Leverage- We will leverage our executive team in this account.
[The mechanical power of using a lever to move something heavy, like a client’s opinion, frequently requires more gravitas, an executive’s specialty. ]
- Gravitas- We need an executive with gravitas.
[People with the leverage of big titles like Vice President and Chief Executive So-and-so are known as heavyweights and we all know that more weight results in more force of gravity.]
- Cycle- The sales cycle in this account should be 6 months.
[A cycle is a series of occurrences that repeats itself. This is especially useful for sales teams that need to try, try again.]
I learned all these words in my science classes where they have very distinct and meaningful definitions with all sorts of theory and mathematical foundations. In sales-speak, using this sort of jargon attempts to disguise the uncertainty and softness of measurable sales progress. Strong-worded physical jargon is cliché and hyperbole in the majority of selling usages. Nevertheless, I enjoy listening to such amusing wording in sales forecasts. If you read between the lines, and observe these situations, you will find that the more physically hardened jargon they use, the softer their forecast really is. It is sort of like when you see someone who constantly needs to preface their statements with IMHO, they are usually not very H.
We engineers have our own silly jargon and idiosyncrasies. I await some sales wizard’s response with a humorous and equally sarcastic salvo on engineering jargon. Their view, with an outsider’s perspective, would be much more entertaining than my insider’s view.