10 Business Buzzwords It’s Time to Retire

If you want your business to succeed, you’ve got to know how to speak your customers’ language.
buzzwords
When working with a customer or staff member, talk in goals, not catchphrases. (Photo: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock)

As a business owner, you’ve spent years mastering the ins and outs of your industry. You are skilled at “talking the talk” with your peers — but what about how you communicate with the average consumer? Industry jargon and business buzzwords may work when talking with others in your industry, but when selling a product or service to a customer, using unfamiliar terms and phrases can get your brand message lost in translation.

Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi

“One way to identify these terms is to ask yourself, ‘When my clients talk about this at the dinner table, would they use this word or not?’” – Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi (Photo: Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi)

According to Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi, an Atlanta-based strategic development business consultant, small business owners should avoid using business buzzwords because “it creates a barrier between the business and its clients. Clients will, at best, not relate to the terminology and, at worst, not understand it,” she said.

When customers don’t understand what you’re selling or see how your product or service is relevant to them, they won’t buy, meaning lost sales and more. Brizi suggested cutting these common business buzzwords from your vocabulary and finding better ways to speak your customer’s language.

Synergy

Synergy refers to collaboration, where multiple people, organizations or other elements are working together toward a common goal. Typically, groups take a “synergistic” approach in order to achieve a result greater than the sum of their individual efforts.

Instead of using this term, Brizi suggests using more common words, such as collaborate or alliance, and “complete the sentence by explaining how the two elements are expected to work together.”

Disruptive

The term “disruption” has been a big buzzword in recent years, and it means that a business is doing something new and different enough that it is changing the face of a particular market. For example, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have been disruptive to the cab industry.

“Every new business wants to be disruptive. Very few actually are — and that is ok,” said Brizi.
“Instead of claiming to be disruptive, describe what you do differently or what change you will bring to the marketplace.”

Related: 3 Disruptive Technologies that Are Making Their Way to Small Business

Leverage

This word is simply another way of saying “to use,” but comes across cunning and calculated. Brizi recommended replacing this word with the specific action or application you are talking about. For instance, instead of instructing employees to “leverage” humor when talking to customers, simply tell them to be friendly and throw in a few tasteful jokes, when appropriate.

Think outside the box

When you want someone to think creatively about a problem, don’t tell them to “think outside the box,” said Brizi. Instead, take time to explain the goal and the reasons other ideas haven’t worked. Then encourage the person to help you find a new solution.

“A very common employee complaint is, ‘I am told to think outside the box, but then all my ideas are shot down,’” she said.

clerk with customer

While you may be an expert in your industry, using unfamiliar jargon and buzzwords may get your message lost in translation when working with a customer. (Photo: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock)

Wheelhouse

Unfortunately, sometimes you have the difficult task of telling a customer “No.” But saying that what they are asking for “is not in our wheelhouse” will likely fall flat.

“This is a low-commitment way to say yes or no. ‘It’s in (or is not in) my wheelhouse.’ What does that mean? Either you can manage this, or you can not, so just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” Brizi advised.

Circle back

“Circling back” means to returning to a person or issue.

“But a circle merely goes around itself,” Brizi said. Rather than telling a customer you will circle back to them, “express a specific next step: ‘I will get that information and then relay it to you so you can take the next step.’ Move forward, not back and around.”

Customer-centric

This term means you are focused on putting the customer at the center of your business — which is a great thing, but what business would ever say that they do not put their customers first?

Brizi’s advice: “Prove it. Instead of using this term, give an example. Speak to a specific thing you do as a business for all your customers, that proves this point.”

Hustle

The term “hustle” is near and dear to the life of an entrepreneur, meaning to work exceptionally hard or put in long hours. Unfortunately, some business owners end up focusing more on “the hustle” than the outcome, said Brizi.

“Don’t hustle. Do useful work.”

To give 110 percent

When trying to motivate your employees to do their best, it’s best to be clear and specific about your expectations.

“Giving 110 percent is a mathematical impossibility, so it inspires nothing because it means nothing,” said Brizi.

Related: 7 Ways You’re De-Motivating Your Employees

To take something to the next level

When talking to a customer or member of your staff, “Talk in goals, not catchphrases,” said Brizi. “A business must communicate in terms of outcome to the client.”

Telling a customer how a product or service will make his or her life better is a much more powerful sales tool than ambiguous statements like, “This will take you to the next level.” The next level of what? Most often, customers are looking for the solution to a specific problem — not winning a competition.

While these are 10 commonly used business buzzwords, Brizi recommends evaluating your own brand messaging to see where you can improve the language you use with customers.

“One way to identify these terms is to ask yourself, ‘When my clients talk about this at the dinner table, would they use this word or not?’” she said. “Write out your scripts and cross out all the words you suspect are jargon. Then try to rewrite the script without those words. This will shift your focus to specific actions, outcomes and values, and it will improve your relationships with employees and with clients.”

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