The many tongues of business

Help! My tongue stuck!
Photo owned by jerine (cc)

The more I meet businesses big and small and business people big and small, the more I see how many different ways these businesses communicate both internally and externally. It makes me wonder whether one of the main skills of an excellent sales person is not acting like a foreigner in a company but somebody who can speak to them in their own language.

If you think about those that may have learned English as as second or third language though and when they come to Ireland, they have a lot more to learn because of how we use and abuse English. Our English is quite different to the English of those in the UK or Canada or the United States. Only when someone starts becoming native do they get all those nuances. If you as a company are selling to the SMEs, medium-sized enterprises and large corporates then your language probably has to change to reflect this. Far far far too many sales people use their own bullshit-laden language to hide the fact their clueless about how the potential client operates. Shame on the client for allowing it. Shame on the sales manager for hiring such false people.

The Cluetrain Manifesto talked about the fact that enterprises are going to have to become more human in order to engage with the democraticised masses but what about engaging with the still conservative medium and large orgs? There are probably more businesses in Ireland without a website than with one, for example and many of these companies probably barely go online. They’re still using their own language and you’ll have to find out what it is.

From the Cluetrain:

# Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
# Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

And they call it puppy love (45/52)
Photo owned by timparkinson (cc)

If you’re a small operation you’re going to need a gifted salesperson in order to talk to all these businesses and their dialects. Luckily with technology and the movement of intra and inter business communications to open/transparent spaces online, we can now immerse ourselves a little bit more in the culture of these businesses and additionally as a company opens itself up more, their dialect will change too. Hopefully that won’t be a mid-Atlantic drawl. Look at how much hiphop culture, a small subculture in actuality, has greatly influenced the culture of the whole world. So it will get easier over time but it’s going to be slow moving.

It’s kind of funny that so many social media consultants are talking about “markets are conversations” and to market to where the crowd is yet marketing to the crowd is not done by everyone. We have a bit of a revolution going on when it comes to online marketing and selling to the kids of the digital age yet there doesn’t appear to be any revolution in doing this the other way around. Where are the classes on how to communicate with the dull (but rich) corporates? Where are the guide books with phrases or words used in Irish SMEs, in Irish Corporates, in financial companies, in manufacturing companies… oh actually here’s one on jargon from John Murray from RTE but it covers more than business jargon.

When BizCamp happens I’ve love to start a group discussion about this idea of language.

2 Responses to “The many tongues of business”

  1. I agree totally with getting to know the language of different organisations, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone just spoke and write using plain English.

    I have a particular issue with State organisations using jargon they’ve all become ‘engaged’ with which ‘informs’ their discussions with each other but alienates the wider public with whom they interact.

    I’ve been consulted by local community organisations to read letters from State organisations that fund them simply to explain what exactly this organisation wants now. And, sometimes, it takes two and three reads of a sentence or a paragraph to figure it out.

    So, far from people trying to understand the language at intra and inter-business and organisation level, could we all just please use plain English ‘going forward’?


  2. Paul says:

    hi Damien, there is an interesting site to help “business people that talk like idiots” –