Respondents were 13% less likely to even consider purchasing a solution described using jargon than they were the same solution described in plain English.

Agent Talk: Report Says Telecom Jargon A Sale Killer

Date: January 8th, 2015
Author: Anton Loon
Tags: jargon, voip, sip, ip pbx, IT, agents, sales

“Agent Talk” is a recurring segment that offers new insight, ideas and strategy to our friends in the telecom agent community. Check back for a new post each month!

The telecom industry in particular is already highly jargonized (if that isn’t a word, it is now). The acronyms and tech terms are seemingly infinite, and as someone who uses them on a daily basis, I can attest to the fact that you sometimes forget the rest of the world doesn’t know what the heck you’re talking about. While it seems pretty obvious at face-value to avoid jargon whenever possible, a recent report from telecom market research firm Software Advice really put some context and perspective around just how damaging jargon can be to your sales and marketing efforts, specifically when it comes to telecom products and services.

There are two numbers from the report, Jargon’s Impact on Business VoIP Adoption, that were particularly noteworthy:

  • Respondents were 13% less likely to even consider purchasing a solution described using jargon than they were the same solution described in plain English.
  • Respondents were 11% less likely to purchase a solution described to them in jargon even if the solution would save them money.

While those numbers shouldn’t be a huge surprise, it’s always interesting to see your suspicions quantified. Where things get really interesting is when the report examines the consumer responses to “SIP” and certain VoIP features...

The survey asked consumers, “Have you used a client based on the SIP standard to initiate a communications session with streaming audio and/or video between IP endpoints,” and then asked, “Have you ever used Skype or similar software to make a phone call or video call over the Internet?” Only 7% of respondents answered “yes” to the first questions, while 49% said “yes” to the second question. 

If you looked at that first question and said, “Well that’s an extreme case of jargon and probably a bit unfair to use because no one actually speaks at that level,” I think that’s a fair counterpoint. But consider this: When asked if they would prefer an IP PBX system that offers “find me”/”follow me” feature over one that doesn’t, there was still a significant gap in respondents who said “yes” compared to respondents who were asked more plainly if they wanted a business phone system that forwarded desk calls to their cell phone. Same feature, not presented in an overly-jargony manner, but still a big difference in outcome.

Compounding the issue is that even tech-savvy audiences may not be on the same page when it comes to voice solutions. Chris Sterbenc, vice president of sales at FreedomVoice, is quoted in the report as saying “Even networking engineers...are freaked out when you throw voice into the mix” because voice only makes up a small portion of the issues they have to resolve, thus they are less familiar with those issues.

What does all of this mean for us on the agent side of the business? A few things:

  1. Know your audience. The age-old marketing adage still rings true: speak in terms your audience will understand.
  2. Take nothing for granted. If IT pros still aren’t totally familiar with the technology you’re selling, you can’t assume your prospect is going to know what you’re talking about even if they hold a position or title that implies they might. You have to play to the lowest common denominator.
  3. Exploit the knowledge gap. As long as businesses are still in the dark about certain aspects of telecom technology, you have a chance to fill a unique role as a thought leader. You don’t have to go straight for the hard sell; simply pitch your expertise and when the time comes to buy, you’ll be top-of-mind.

Keep these ideas in mind the next time you make a call, write an email or type up a brochure. It could make a bad quarter better or a good quarter great!