Acronyms and buzzwords serve a function inside a business when communicating with staff and suppliers. They allow us to shorten a paragraph of conceptual ideas into words like “actionable” or “engagement.” They are helpful when sending text messages. However, when you start using business jargon and acronyms when talking with customers, you are breaking an important rule of marketing: Assume customers have no idea what your acronym means.

Recently, I was a customer in a parts and supply business that carries what I discovered was a larger-than-typical inventory of items related to a narrow niche in a big industry. While talking with who I learned was the owner, I commented on his vast inventory. He responded with an appreciative explanation filled with acronyms like SKUs (stock keeping units) and RFID (radio frequency identification) and other terms I can’t recall, but assume have something to do with the industry he serves. I left without buying what I needed, but with a head full of facts that I promptly forgot once out the door.

Talk with customers as if you are a person and they are a person

Acronyms and jargons are great when used among your tribe, but they are a language that only a certain segment of the world’s population speaks. When speaking to manufacturers, suppliers, shippers or staff, the need for a term or acronym like “SKU” is critical. However, when talking with a customer who uses terms like “doo-hickey,” the best way to win a sale is to focus on speaking in a language the customer understands.

Speak in the language of outcomes

Customers typically speak in a universal language I call “the language of outcomes,” such as, “I need something that will help me accomplish this task.”

The most effective way to sell something to such a customer (say, me), is to explain in the “language of outcomes” how I can use something you have to accomplish what I am trying to do.

Drop the industry-speak, the acronyms, the listing of features and the way the product was delivered to you and how you store it.

In language they can clearly understand, help your customers reach the outcome they seek.

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