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Business Berlitz

By , - Last modified: March 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Mary took her Russian class notes in French and her French class notes in Russian. Later in the library, she translated and rewrote both Russian and French versions back to her native English.

Although at the time the notes thing seemed a bit extreme, her ability to move between languages was pretty impressive and it left an indelible impression.

Fast forward 10 years.

Sales people, sometimes two or three in a day, are in and out of the office. Each is selling their wares and expressing in terms understandable only to them the features and benefits of their products and success stories of people in unrelated industries.

Sometime the benefits were literally as simplistic as “will save you money,” “will save you time” or “will improve the bottom line.” This milquetoast and vanilla language is almost as hard to parse and understand as if they were speaking Russian. Why couldn’t they speak our industry language or our operations language? If they did, we could really understand what the product could do for us and we would buy more!

Want to sell more? Improve your vocabulary — your business vocabulary.

When I started at General Electric, “Accounting: The Language of Business” was required reading. Riveting material, eh? It turned out to be one of the more important tomes of my sales career.


Because instead of the vague generalities above, operations managers clearly could understand how our product could “drop cost of goods sold.” They could grasp how our fast delivery could help them “increase inventory turns.” They could agree that our financing could help them solve immediate “cash flow or liquidity concerns.” Their levels of interest and understanding went up dramatically because it was explained in terms that meant something to them.

When you speak in your customer’s language, they understand more and they buy more.

These are not verbal smoke and mirrors. Try to toss around operations terms without understanding them and your façade quickly will crumble and your credibility will be difficult to rebuild. A sales professional understands the language and the concepts and uses them appropriately.

How does one step it up even further? Learn the language of the customers’ industry. Demonstrate you are aware of their specific issues, challenges and opportunities by using their language and being able to understand what they are saying to you without having to ask for a definition every few moments. Read their trade papers, subscribe to their newsletters — you will absorb their industry-specific language.

For most of us, learning the language of business will be a lot easier than learning Russian or French or Swahili. Fortunately, too, we can find people that will understand it on our very next sales call.

Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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