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.

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A Playlist to Celebrate the Joys of Cold Calling

Tired businesswomanCold calling stinks…but it works. Ask any seasoned sales professional and they’ll back me on this.

I spent my entire career trying to prove cold calling, or prospecting, didn’t work, convinced each day that I took on this distasteful activity I was wasting my time. Some days it amounted to nothing. On those days I felt vindicated for thinking my sales manager was a real tool for making me do it.

The other days, however, when I landed the big accounts as a result of my cold calling, I learned the bittersweet truth that cold calling stinks, but it works.

I Googled sales songs. There are plenty of playlists to get you pumped up at a sales meeting and plenty to help you go get ‘em at the Trade Show. I noticed, however, that there is a real void as it pertains to playlists to pick you up after enduring repeated and sometimes hateful rejection while cold calling.

Consider this void filled. Here is a 30-minute playlist with not a single song from this century that can take you from depressed to deliriously optimistic after suffering the indignities of cold calling.

We’re Not Gonna Take It:

Been dismissed by rude gatekeepers, hung up on, sworn at, and escorted from the building? We’re Not Gonna Take It will restore your self-esteem. Bonus points for anybody who turns around and shakes his or her fist at security singing the chorus like Dee Snider in the video.

I mean cold calling can really make for a tough day:

Okay, maybe not that tough. Yeesh.

Mr. Blue Sky:

Constant rejection can create a negative attitude in the most positive sales professional. This song is the perfect antidote for what Tony Robbins calls Stinkin’ Thinkin.’ Mr. Blue Sky will cheer you up with its pure awesomeness. In fact, I assert that this song is almost as awesome as their hairstyles.

Man in Motion:

For a song that will make your braver, and stronger than a 1980s heartthrob in a mediocre Breakfast Club for twenty-somethings movie, look no further than Man In Motion from the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack. The movie was cheesy, and so is the song, I guess, but I always feel like I can sell ice to Eskimos after I listen to it. With lyrics like, “Just once in his life, a man has his time. And that time is now that I’m comin’ alive!”, be sure your windows are rolled up because you are bound to embarrass yourself otherwise singing along to it.

Proud Mary, Ike and Tina Turner:

Listen, cold calling is tough. Who can deny that Tina has survived a lot? She’s tough. Considering what she rose above, surely a few hang ups and door slams pale in comparison. Proud Mary empowers us all to take care of business while oozing fierce determination and confidence.

Author’s Note: My kids took a video of me dancing to this in my office while I was writing this post. They are still laughing about it. I don’t care because they don’t know how to post on Facebook yet!

The Gambler:

I don’t ordinarily cotton to country music, but nobody can deny that this hit by Kenny Rogers teaches us all about negotiation and the art of closing gracefully with the sage wisdom, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” After all if you did happen to get the sale, you never count your commission while you are still sitting at the table in the new client’s office. There’ll be time enough for countin’ on your phone in the parking lot!

Eye of the Tiger:

If ever there was a song that could make you believe you had sales superpowers, it’s this one. Back in high school, I once listened to Eye of the Tiger 18 times in a row before a big swim race and then swam a full 3 seconds faster than I ever had. For those of you that didn’t ever swim competitively that’s a lot! But if you don’t believe me, believe him:

He pities the fool who doesn’t listen to the song after a hard day of cold calling.

La Copa De la Vide (Cup of Life):

I don’t know where you were in 1998 for the World Cup, but I was pounding out a living with a poorly rated radio station in Kansas City. My paycheck was 100% commission, and my client list was the yellow pages, which is a recipe for starvation if you don’t figure out how to prospect. For you millennial-types, the Yellow Pages was an actual paper book that listed businesses by their type with their landline phone numbers (No, really). This song made sure I didn’t starve. My cup of Ramen noodles runneth over thanks to Ricky Martin’s incredibly motivating song.

Ricky: Do you really want it?

Me: (thinking of dinner) Yeah!

Ricky: Do you really want it? Here we go. Go! Go! Go!

Me: Ale! Ale! Ale!

I took music appreciation in college. I don’t remember my professor’s name, but he said something that has stayed with me to this day:

Miss Ince, is it really necessary to arrive five minutes after class starts every day?”

Just kidding. He did say that, but that isn’t the one I was talking about just now. He said that music comes the closest to expressing the inexpressible. Now, of course, he was talking about classical music, not classic rock, but I think the concept applies either way.

So when you need to express your frustration with a rough cold calling day, then pick yourself up, dust off your Nine West pumps, pick up the scattered sales accouterment strewn across the pavement after getting tossed from yet another office building for “soliciting,” by some overzealous ex con, and play this playlist as loud as you can stand it—while you find another office park to conquer.

What songs would you add to the playlist? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

 

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.or email me at terri@terrilively.com.

Photo Credit: Kalim from Fotolia.com

Green Eggs and Ham: The Only Sales Manual You’ll Ever Need

I am an ex-salesperson. For anyone in outside sales, you know this is a career both revered and reviled by most people. I bet more than one of you suffered accusations of selling snake oil in your lifetime.

Outside salespeople are always sent to training. I went to Bryan Tracy. I saw a guy with the Miss Clairol black hair color…Tom Hopkins. I even went to something called, Professional Selling Skills. I’m not knocking these events; I learned a ton, and I highly recommend them to a sales person just starting out.

If you don’t have the budget or the attention span for these sales programs, however, just read Green Eggs and Ham. Do so, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the only sales manual you’ll ever need.

Why? I’ll give you five reasons:

#1: Sam introduces himself in a memorable way.

The prospect must know who you are. You need to be a person and even more importantly, a person they like. Who can deny that Sam introduces himself in a memorable way?

Personally, I can’t pull off wearing a red top hat or holding a sign while perched on my weird-looking dog’s keister (and neither can you), but I can hand them a business card and introduce myself right up front. Adapt Sam’s strategy to a more streamlined and personal introduction and you are already off to a great start.

#2: Sam doesn’t get put off by the fact the dog/bear/sheep creature doesn’t like him.

Seriously…what is that thing?

When you make a prospecting call, you are interrupting someone’s day. Your prospect had a ToDo list as long as his or her arm before you decided to drop by or call. In addition, he or she is usually not too excited you made it through the gatekeeper. Don’t let this stop you. There is always a reason to give up. The truly successful salespeople keep smiling and selling despite these reasons.

#3: Sam gets the Assumptive Close.

In my sales career, I learned that all of us snake oil types had different Closes. Closes are techniques you use to get your prospect to yes. If you want to be in sales, you must know your closes.

One of these tried and true techniques is the Assumptive Close. The assumptive close is where you just presume that the prospect is going to say yes, so you provide them the option of where or when they want the snake oil. “Sure I understand, Ms. Prospect. Can I come to your office to discuss the terms of our agreement on Tuesday or Wednesday?”

Sam gets the assumptive close. He tries it repeatedly for 41 pages:

Would you like them here or there?

“Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse?

“Would you? Could you? In a car?”

And so forth. Sam’s a fan of the assumptive close.

#4: Sam doesn’t take no for an answer.

Certain members of my family have been described as pleasantly persistent. If you don’t know what that means, just re-read the book. Sam is never deterred by the creature’s insistence that he doesn’t like green eggs and ham. He sticks to his strategy and over time wears out the thing’s resistance.

In real sales, this can be tricky. Do what Sam does, and you may find yourself on the wrong end of a harassment lawsuit.

But it is important always to keep the door open. If the prospect isn’t interested now, ask if there is a time when the company reviews their vendors so you can reconnect then. Another good foot in the door option is to invite him or her to an event or a sales booth at trade show for a personal demonstration. Whatever you do, make sure that the “No” you are getting today isn’t final so you can try again on another, better day.

#5: Sam gets the product in his prospect’s hands.

In almost any sales situation, the key to converting prospects is to get the product in their hands. You know what a great widget you have, but your prospect doesn’t. If you can get it in his or her hands and have the widget show them how wonderful it is, you are that much closer to getting the yes you want. Getting the product in the prospect’s hands is obviously harder to do in intangible sales where the widget is a concept, but there are ways. When I sold radio time we made a spec commercials so our prospects could hear what their professionally produced :60 Radio ad would sound like.

Sam offers the creature a free sample of his green eggs and ham, imploring him to “Try them! Try them!” And even though the sample he offers has been in a strange house with a known disease-causing vermin, traveled in a box with a fox, in a car, up a tree, on a train, through a tunnel, in the exhaust pipe of a boat and finally underwater…the creature eats them. Better yet, he likes them.

So there you have it. I just saved you and your sales manager a ton in training budget. It turns out that everything you ever needed to know about sales was explained to you as a child in a book that uses no more than 50 words.

Now get out there and sell some snake oil!

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. She crafts strategies for her clients that want to enhance their content. 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.

 

 

Being a Writer: Expectations Vs. Reality by Lenora Epstein, Buzzfeed.com

 

Being a Writer: Expectations Vs. Reality by Lenora Epstein on Buzzfeed.com

 

Just a little levity in the form of humor a little too close to truth to be entirely comfortable to get our weekends started off right!

Do You Dangle?

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In high school, there was a group of boys that I knew who would always say, “Can I dangle for your delight?” This phrase was often followed by bouts of boyish giggling as they all enjoyed their wit, referring to their favorite part of their anatomy in a silly bit of almost alliterative humor. My reaction was usually to roll my eyes and make a hasty exit from their general area before anyone actually dangled anything.

But years later, I still hear their boyish proposition every time my prose results in a dangling preposition. I see my for, out, before, or in hanging there, precariously perched at the end of my phrase construction, peering over the ledge of poor grammar, dangling for my delight.

So I do what any respectable writer would do: I fix it. However, I find that many times it my correction sounds way too formal.

There is no question that in speech we dangle prepositions all the time in regular speech. It’s so natural an occurrence in American English that as a writer, it almost seems unnatural when you correct it. For example, in the post I was just writing for my client my sentence originally read:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste some vegetables are known for.

Which I then corrected to:

Some people actually have taste buds that are especially receptive to the bitter taste for which some vegetables are known.

I know the second sentence is better writing. But if I’m honest, it also sounds a little stiff. Since this particular blog post is for a doctor, I suppose that stiff and formal isn’t exactly the wrong tone. But I can’t help but think when I read this that maybe an occasional dangling preposition isn’t exactly the worst crime in the grammar realm.

Which sentence would you use? What do you think about dangling prepositions: Is it a grammar rule that needs to be broken? Tell me, when it comes to dangling prepositions, where are you at?

The Future of Story Telling by Paul Zak

This is a great short video that explains how stories can change the way people think…and how to harness that power for good. In some ways, that gives storytellers like us great power.

So it follows that as storytellers we must always remember, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

“Substitute ‘da…

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain

Swear words. They play far too major a role in my other job as mother. But that’s another post…

Using colorful language in writing can be both enhancing to the story when placed carefully and distracting when overused. Personally, I am always going for a PG rating on my posts. But the occasional PG-13 word is sometimes just too great to leave out. Of course, I have been known to substitute the Yosemite Sam version, as in “@#$!@@”, which is almost as good. 

Mark Twain is far too famous for his use of certain words. But aside from controversy that has been blown out of proportion in my opinion, he is a master at colorful language. I love his advice here. I had a teacher in high school that hated the word very also. I hear him admonishing me in my head whenever I type it. Thank you, Mr. Clemmons.

What is your policy on swearing? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below.