Work-Speak You Should Never Use

OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE

I have two full-time jobs: mothering and writing. Interestingly enough, they both require me to watch my language.

I’m not the only one who should be watching my language at work. You should be, too. I make a living off of words, so I am familiar with which ones are the good ones. There are some words and phrases in use in offices all around the world today that are not doing anybody any favors. In fact, I would argue if you use any of the following words at work on a regular basis, you might be a tool.

Language You Should Never Use at Work

Work hard; play hard. When I sold mobile phones (not a career highlight, I might add), I had a manager that said this one a lot. It was long enough ago that if you are still saying it, you are definitely not trending. The phrase implies you are working all your waking hours during the week and likely to drop out of a helicopter with some form of waxed wood attached to your feet all weekend. Frankly, I’m exhausted just describing you. Everyone needs downtime—even Mr. or Mrs.-Headed-to-the-emergency-room-again-this-week. Take yours so you can be useful at your job.
Efficacious. This word bugs me so much I can’t even come up with funny things to say about it. Say effective for the love of Pete, and spare me the ridiculous-sounding derivation. You don’t sound smart; you sound idiocious.
Stretch goal. Forgive me if I misunderstood the definition of the word goal, but I was under the impression that all goals are a stretch, hence the reason it’s a goal. The word stretch is redundant. Or perhaps stretch goal implies this goal is the one for those that want to accomplish something…you know, the work hard, play hard set. The regular old goal must just be for the poor schlep that goes to the store on Saturdays and does some laundry instead of jetting to Spain and running with the bulls in Pamplona.


Utilize. Please just say use instead. Sure it’s common and monosyllabic, but it’s enough. Every letter more than three that talks about the “use” of something subtracts 15 points from your IQ.
Synergy. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you don’t know what this word means so don’t use it. Good luck Googling it, too. According to my search, it means that a group has exceeded the ability of its most capable member. It is also stated to be difficult if not impossible to achieve. In fact, my source compares it to a Chimera or a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology.

My guess is you don’t want that thing around the office. Besides, the second definition of Chimera is “something that exists only in the imagination and is not possible in reality.” So if you are talking about Synergy earnestly at work, it’s the equivalent of talking about Big Foot like it’s a real thing.

Listen, I know that jargon is just part of living around other people. I understand it better than most. That’s why I use the word “potty” with no sense of irony most of the time, even when the children aren’t around. Not to mention the majority of my day is spent avoiding jargon inappropriate for the little ears around my office.

We also know there are some words that certain people just can’t pull off. Take, for example, the word posse. I never call any of my mom friends “my posse.” I am neither a rapper nor a sheriff hunting for a fugitive. I can’t use the word without sounding like a dip wad. So I don’t.

There are some words we all need to let go of in emails, PowerPoint presentations, and conference room banter. They make you sound awkward and in some cases, idiocious. So save your slang for the break room posse. When it comes to work, we all need to watch our language.

So what do you think? What are some corporate speak words that make us sound like dip wads? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

How a Pizza Place Saved My Bacon

Hot Homemade Pepperoni Pizza

I read CEO of Beyond Philosophy Colin Shaw’s posts a lot about the “Customer Experience.” If you have ever read his stuff, then you know that he writes a lot about making sure the emotions of your Customers are addressed with a deliberate strategy. I have always thought about that idea as a broad concept, but today I got a much better idea of what Shaw means in a real world example.

A little backstory is probably necessary here. When I quit my day job nine years ago to raise my children myself (Sorry, Sheryl Sandberg…I feel like I personally fail you every time I write that sentence), I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into on a day-to-day basis. Honestly, I don’t think many first-time parents do or humans might have gone extinct by now.

One aspect that surprised me the most was the expectation of hosting incredibly elaborate birthday parties for my progeny. Now, growing up, I had never hosted nor attended a party for anyone I knew that was fancier than what they would do at McDonald’s . It was (ahem) a little while ago, to be sure, but not so long ago that you had to watch out for the glaciers or anything…

So when I discovered that birthday parties today required fancy steps like invitations (the McDonald’s invite was done over the phone in the kitchen with the long twisted up chord), I was perturbed. When I then discovered the need for “entertainment” either as a rented inflatable or an acrobatic show featuring six original cast members from Cirque du Soleil, then you can imagine my feelings. Add to it the need for a Pinterest-worthy theme and a related take home gift for the party attendees, you can understand why the thought of a party made me feel the need to lie down for a bit.

However, if there is one thing I have learned as a mom, it’s that lying down doesn’t do anything except predictably result in some “emergency” that simply cannot resolve itself without Mom’s intervention, e.g., Someone needs a drink of water or the “She won’t stop touching the door handle!” dispute requiring Mom’s impartial mediation. So instead, I embraced the party, like a Super Mom.

We had a party with a bouncy house. Then I had a party at the bouncy house place. Then I had the Lizard Wizard come, followed the next year by the Mad Science crew. The last party I threw was a garden party where everyone painted flower pots and planted them with seeds. Truth be told, they were good parties…but I wore myself out. Whether I was sick of throwing parties or not, however, the birthdays still keep a coming, and my kids aren’t quite old enough to be “over the whole party thing” yet.

So What’s All This Have to do with Customer Experience?

As I mentioned, I was still on the hook for the party whether I had the energy for it or not. This year, I decided to take my oldest, a few of his buddies, and my other two kids to the movies and then to a local pizza place afterward. The plan was simple, required no top-to-bottom house cleaning, and featured two of my nine-year-old son’s favorite things. It was a winner for everyone involved.

Gino’s Pizza is a local pizza joint. We decided to host my son’s apres movie lunch there. This pizza place is not Chuck E. Cheez (I don’t even care if I spelled that right…I can’t stand Chuck E. It’s like a gambling simulator for Vegas-bound kids. I escape that place with a thrumming headache and a fierce desire for a martini…). Gino’s doesn’t host ten simultaneous pizza parties every Saturday. From what I can tell, they don’t host any parties on a regular basis.

Despite this lack of experience in party throwing, they were fantastic. They were extremely accommodating, had a table reserved for us right in the middle of the restaurant, and served us awesome pizza. Honestly though, while these things are important, I would have been satisfied. Not thrilled, not unhappy, but satisfied.

My experience with Gino’s doesn’t stop there, however. Alex, the manager, also helped me by storing the cake in his refrigerator while we went to the movie, helped me mend a broken candle (the R in the “Celebrate” candles box broke in transit; it was his idea to use frosting to glue it together–pure genius!), and then cut the cake for everyone. Lucky for me, he had paper plates and forks, since I didn’t bring any. He even ran out to his car to get a lighter to light the candles. Finally, he came out to give my birthday boy a couple of extra quarters for the video games all the kids were climbing on in the end.

And yes, I am a dolt for not thinking of a single one of these details on my own! Frankly, in some ways, he threw the party for my son. He saved my bacon with that lighter. I suppose I would have had to rub two sticks together and hope for a spark to conduct this important birthday ritual.

I would never have expected him to do all the things he did. He went above and beyond. I felt important and cared for as a result, which if you read Shaw’s posts then you know that is the feeling that creates Customer Loyalty and Retention.

In Gino’s case, I even went out and wrote a glowing Yelp Review, an activity I rarely bother with in experiences good or bad. It just goes to show in a real world example that when you put yourself in the Customer’s shoes and literally help them get their party started, you will reap the rewards of repeat business and positive buzz.

So my question to you today is: How are you adding the flame to your Customer’s candles and saving their bacon?

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at http://www.terrilively.com.

What We Can All Learn About Sales from the Meat Guys

Meat

A few months ago, I was enjoying a pleasant afternoon at home with my front door thrown wide open. Not only did it facilitate a lovely cross breeze, but it also allowed my kids free access to do laps around the house. Everyone was in good humor and even I; the perpetually stressed mother-of-three-work-at-home mom was relaxed and cheerful.

I had just stood up from my desk headed to the kitchen for a snack when he stuck his head in my open door. He was scruffy-looking at best, ratty-looking at worst.

“Hello!” he said.

I froze, wondering where in Hades had he come from, but recovering quickly I smiled and said hello back. I wondered if he was there to rob me or pitch me, a fair question for the door-to-door types that inhabit the world we live in today.

Luckily he was pitching that day, for frozen meat as it turns out. It was a product I didn’t expect. Oddly enough he had my attention because as a mother-of-three-work-at-home-mom I rarely have my larders as stocked as I would like. Normally I hustle these types of sales calls away as quickly as possible, but today based on my good humor and the fact that he literally had a foot in the door, I let him continue.

His pitch was enticing: seafood, beef, and pork delivered to my door, frozen and individually wrapped for as little as $3.99 a pound. It sounded good although I still had a healthy dose of skepticism about buying meat door-to-door. So I did the worst thing ever; I asked a question. Within seconds, a rattier, sketchier fellow was at the first scruffy guy’s side with a creepy smile and a flimsy business card; aka “The Supervisor.” He was smarmier than a paperback romance novel and oilier than pork he was trying to pass off as high quality.

Considering my description of the events so far it should be obvious that I ended up buying the meat, right?

I know. To be honest, I am as surprised as you are that I bought it. When I look back on this, I feel exactly like the first Igloo-dwelling  native American must have felt after buying a truckload of ice from sales representatives based out of Walla-Walla, Washington.

What We Can Learn about Sales from the Meat Guys:

Timing is everything.

Prospects are going to have times when they are receptive and times when they wouldn’t be interested in solid gold bricks for $5. Regarding the Meat Guys, you could say everyone is a sucker if you catch them at the right moment.

Like I said before, I was relaxed. It was a beautiful afternoon of harmony and productivity with happy children and happy mommy enjoying each other’s company. All this bliss and tranquility made me soft. I forgot my usual pejorative dismissal of door-to-door salespeople.

Have great collateral material that reflects the quality of your business.

Collateral material is essential to making your business look legit. It makes an impression and becomes an extension of your brand. Moreover, it gives the customer something tangible to read later with your unique selling proposition and contact information. Despite a general move to digital collateral, printed material is still important to many people when making a buying decision.

In this case, the Meat Guys’ cruddy, poorly designed and written brochure helped me convince myself that they were above board. The facts that they had no website, no local phone number, and a general nefarious appearance were nullified by the trifold, full-color brochure printed on the flimsiest paper stock ever made and handed to me with sweaty, shaky hands.

Get the product in the prospect’s hands.

In a previous post about Green Eggs and Ham, I mentioned how Sam, the pleasantly persistent sales rep for the Unfortunately Colored Ham Company gets the product into his prospect’s hands, which eventually gets the yes. This tactic is great, particularly when you have a great product. The Meat Guys know this, too, so they wasted no time in unpacking boxes of meat right on my kitchen floor.

Seeing the individually portioned meat strewn about the linoleum had two effects. First, that it was a variety of meat that didn’t look weird or gross (that is until you thaw it out). Second, that I would feel awkward telling them to beat it and then have to stand there in uncomfortable silence while they packed up the multitude of boxes and left.

Have clear payment options.

If your prospect is considering your product, be sure to make clear how they can buy it, and make sure the options are easy. So, in other words, payment options for the average consumer should never include money orders or wire transfers.

The Meat Guys were accommodating to the extreme. All I had to do was write a check, leave the “To” line blank and include my driver’s license number. Simple enough, right? Not the least bit fishy. Heck, maybe I should include my social security number and answers to my favorite security questions while I am at it?

The experience matters.

Your prospect should have a good experience with your transaction. They should feel comfortable and safe. They should feel they got a good value for their money and a new vendor on which they can rely to deliver a quality product.

As a completely nonspecific example, they shouldn’t lay awake at night for hours terrified that they just handed over their identity to be sold on the black market of an Eastern Block country to finance the shopping spree of a diabolical dopplegänger with a penchant for expensive home sports equipment and Jimmy Choo shoes. Or wonder if that stomachache she feels coming on is a result of an acute stress attack or the early signs of food poisoning.

Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” I agree with this. We should try new things. I tried the new thing of buying meat from the back of someone’s truck. It should be apparent based on this decision that apart from a mutual appreciation for trying new things, Einstein and I have nothing else in common!

Needless to say, I won’t be a repeat customer. If I ever saw those guys in my neighborhood again, I would heave one of my weapons-grade crab stuffed filets of sole to get their attention, march out to their low-riding meat wagon, and…ask them if they want me to rewrite their brochure! Just kidding. Their brochure is perfect brand experience for their business–flimsy, tacky, and low quality.

Since I would argue that most of you have a better gig than distributing questionable meat products from the back of your truck, you already have a leg up on the Meat Guys. Sales are as much about timing, presentation and tactics as anything. Those that seize the opportunity get the sale (seizing opportunity, like stopping your car in the middle of a residential street, leaving the door flung wide, and barging through an open door to startle the inhabitants into listening to your pitch). While I don’t like their product or the experience, I do see the genius in their system. To the Meat Guys, I say simply well played.

And also for next time…No Thank You!

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at http://www.terrilively.com.

Want great tips on freelancing or writing? Consider following my blog or email me at terri@terrilively.com.

Typos Count: Catching the Errors Before You Hit Send

     Peeface

Poor, poor Peeface…

It used to be, back in the day, that Typos were a problem for writers, printed publications, and secretaries. Nowadays, in the world of social media and email, Typos are everyone’s problem.

Everything you write is about communication. When you make a thoughtless mistake, it’s distracting from what you wrote. Typos take the reader out of the experience and force them to judge you. To avoid this, you must proof—and preferably before anyone else reads it.

Art and Lit

Well, at least there aren’t many words in paintings.

A while ago, I confessed that I have a long and tortuous relationship with Typos. I implored others to help me with their tips on how to catch Typos. My readers did not disappoint. I found out some great stuff.

So in the spirit of sharing and keeping emails, resumes, business writing, and cat video explanations error-free, here are additional ways to proof better BEFORE you hit send:

Matthew Steele, this is IT:

“Another way to catch typos is to save your article in PDF format and then open it in Adobe Reader (free) and go to View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud, then click where you want it to start reading. It’s a monotone voice, but if you can put up with it, hearing it read to you while you read is a real help.”

Monique Huenergardt, Freelance Author’s Editor, Copy Editor, and Proofreader:

“Change the font style and size, and then reread it. The “preview” function in Blogger serves the same purpose; I almost always catch errors I didn’t see in the draft.”

Writu Tandon, Business Operations Specialist Advance with State of New Mexico:

“In my case, a ‘second pair of eyes’ saves me. Whenever possible, I show my work to my coworker or a friend. Otherwise, I email it to myself, and for some unknown reason, when I receive it in my inbox, I read it more objectively and am able to find ‘most’ typos.”

John Wurtenberger, President and Business Development Engineer at WURTEK:

“One thing my mom taught me when I was a kid was to read my writing backward, word for word. This gives the eyes and brain a different perspective, allowing some misspellings and typos to jump out that we would normally miss.”

If you want a refresher in how I proof, you can hear my radio interview on proofing resumes here.

Inland Empire

So THAT’s why real estate is so much cheaper in the Inland Empire!

It’s not easy to proof your own stuff. One need only read over my past posts, to know that typos are alarmingly pervasive in today’s quick to publish genres. I would argue, however that learning from someone like me has distinct advantages, not the least of which is that I am just an ordinary sinner when it comes to proofing. Asking for proofing advice from someone who is perfect at proofing is like asking a cat how to make a video that is both cute and viral. They don’t know…so they can’t tell you. Plus in this case, cats can’t talk, which just creates more obstacles to knowledge.

Home Run Hitler

Um…Thanks, guys?

I know firsthand that this is true. When I was in college, I decided to be a music minor. My parents were overjoyed, by the way. I guess they were so glad that I had something to fall back on in case my Theatre Major didn’t pan out for me.

As an illustrious Music minor, I had to take Music Theory (business school types: this is how you write actual music on a staff for instruments and voices and stuff). Part of the class that was particularly challenging to me was called ear training, a lab portion of the class where you listen to notes and have to write them down on the staff as played.

Amercia

To be honest, it took me longer than it should to see this one!

IF the idea of this class bewilders you, then you know exactly how I felt. A professor with perfect pitch, a rare gift where the possessor knows exactly the notes and key just by hearing them, taught my first semester. Needless to say, he wasn’t much help to my complete ineptitude. He was generous, however, as he gave me a C, although I sincerely doubt I earned it.

The next semester, however, the professor who taught this portion of class had also struggled with ear training. He was a far superior teacher, because he had to teach himself. He knew how to talk to the clueless, like me, because he had also been clueless at one time.

Human Sauce

Is number 6 gluten-free?

Because of the ear training course, I am living proof that an absolute idiot can get better at almost anything. So no matter how abysmal you are at proofing your own emails (posts, marketing copy, resumes, novels, letters to your mom), you can improve. To start the process of improvement, however, you have to take the first step.

Shoplifters

Seems a little extreme…

I challenge you to try one of these methods above and let me know what you discover in what you thought was otherwise a perfectly acceptable email. Only this time, you will see the blunder before you hit send.

For many more hilarious Typo Memes, see “30 of the Funniest Typos of All Time” at weknowmems.com.

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com.

Typ0s: Part Deux

I have posted about Typ0s before. Now I am talking about it on Radio Shows!

Error Free Resumes By Terri Lively and Cady Chesney

Hope this helps you catch those elusive Typ0s today.

Winners and Losers

The Winner is always part of the answer,

The Loser is always part of the problem.

The Winner always has a program,

The Loser always has an excuse.

The Winner says, “Let me do it for you,”

The Loser says, “That’s not my job.”

The Winner sees an answer for every problem,

The Loser sees a problem for every answer.

The Winner says, “It may be difficult, but it’s possible,”

The Loser says, “It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.”

When a Winner makes a mistake, he says, “I am wrong,”

When a Loser makes a mistake, he says, “It was not my fault.”

A Winner makes commitments,

A Loser Makes Promises.

Winners have dreams,

Losers have schemes.

Winners say, “I must do something,”

Losers, say, “Something must be done.”

Winners are a part of the team,

Losers are apart of the team.

Winners see the gain,

Losers see the pain.

Winners see the possibilities,

Losers see the problems.

Winners see the potential,

Losers see the past.

Winners are like thermostats,

Losers are like thermometers.

Winners choose what they say,

Losers say what they choose.

Winners use hard arguments but soft words,

Losers are soft arguments but hard words.

Winners stand firm on values but compromise on petty things,

Losers stand firm on petty things but compromise on values.

Winners make it happen,

Losers let it happen.

Author Unknown

Monday Morning Quarterback: Sales Call Penalties

Yellow penalty flag on a white backgroundFootball is back. I know because I practically developed bedsores from watching games this weekend. We follow college and pro so that makes for a long weekend around here. We like football like Jon Gruden likes quarterbacks and snarl-smiling.

It occurred to me, however, that football players have it easy. Sure, there are the painful injuries and constant pressure to cause injuries to others. And don’t even get me started on the importance of nailing the celebratory trademark pantomime, for the pros anyway. Football players do have it easy though because they have a team of officials there to let them know when they have done something against the rules.

Consider your last sales call. When you made an egregious error, did anyone blow a whistle? Throw a flag? Discuss it with five other people in detail? Unless your manager was there for a ride-along then probably not…but that doesn’t mean you didn’t make an error and that it didn’t have consequences.

If you read my posts, then you know that my game strategy is all about filling in the blanks for salespeople and managers. To that end, here is a list of proposed penalties for sales calls.

Facemask.

Phony almost never sells a widget—unless it’s a con. Chances are, you aren’t a con artist, so be the best version of yourself you can be. That’s when you are going to succeed in building relationships with your customers. Wearing a mask of what you think your client wants you to be almost never works in your favor in the long run. Save the mask for performance art performances by your neighbor’s kid or family parties with your in-laws. Give your clients the good stuff and you’ll be the MVP, most valuable partner.

False start.

Listen, hustle is a great thing. All the captains of industry have it. But hustling right into your pitch at a sales call is obnoxious. Be sure to start your business by asking questions, both open and closed types, to get a feel for the room first. If you sense that your client or prospect would rather get down to business, then by all means, have a natural conversation that gets them to say, “So why don’t you tell me why you are here today?” Most clients know how to do this if they are busy and don’t want the full chitchat session; let them carry the ball here. Besides, you may learn things in your opening questions that require an audible at the line of scrimmage. Don’t miss out on these important clues because you were talking when you should have been listening.

Delay of Game.

Don’t you hate when people are late? So do your clients. Plan your day with extra time built in so you are never the one holding up the meeting. Being prompt and getting the sale go together like Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.

Illegal touching.

You need to connect with your prospects and clients and build a relationship of trust that can foster opportunities for growth. How you connect touch-wise, however, needs to be businesslike. Stray too far from businesslike touching and you might end up in court, or at the very least off the account. Personal touching allowed in a sales call should be a short list; handshake, occasional touch on the arm, and if you have a good relationship established, maybe a hug. If you do go for the hug however, make sure that you do the torso-separated kind with your hands in safe territory of the upper back. Anything lower is, well, illegal.

If you are in a particularly glamorous industry or Italy, you might need to do cheek or air kisses. I have never been able to pull this off without looking like a dork, so I avoid the cheek or air kiss at all costs. If you are taking on the challenge of a cheek kiss, be sure that it is dry. No one likes a slobber spot on his or her cheek to start off a meeting.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct.

Calm, cool, and collected. No matter what is coming at you from the other side of the desk, counter, or headset, your job is to keep it from escalating. Those listening skills I mentioned before are critical. You should be all ears for this verbal exchange because you will likely find out how you can make your client happy, which is your ultimate goal here. Customers, clients, or prospects have needs and wants, even when they are spittin’ mad. So learn what those are and be polite, even if they aren’t. If you lose your cool, you lose the account. Game over.

If a football player so much as puts a toe out of line (literally) there are whistles, flags, and men in black and white running from the four corners of the field, who define the problem and assign the penalty. Players benefit from this even though they don’t always appreciate it because then they know not to do it again, at least not when the officials are looking.

Football players, in this respect, have it easier than you and I. We mostly never know the real reason that a client or prospect penalizes us with their BFN (big fat no).

Wouldn’t it be great if you had someone there to officiate your sales calls? Just imagine how your client or prospect would jump when the ref blew that whistle in the conference room. Talk about being memorable!

But since we live here in the real world where football players have all the lucky breaks, including their including their tibiae and patellae, you are going to have to be your own ref.

I think you are up to this task. After all, you’re a man; you’re 40 (or you’re a woman, which makes you 29)! So go out there and show them that you are the champion and keep on fighting ‘til the end. Hustle, hit and never quit because pain is temporary; pride is forever. Show them why you do what you do, what you are made of, and how you are going to go the whole 9 yards for them, every time. Whatever you do, play hard all 60 minutes and leave it all on the field.

Are you ready for some sales calls?

What penalties have you seen in sales calls? You make the call in comments below.

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at http://www.terrilively.com.