Recently I was asked to participate in Business in Vancouver’s (BIV) Ask the Experts column. Here is my response to the question BIV posed:

Ask the Experts: How do I cut down on Industry jargon and communicate clearly?


Thomas Levitt a professor at Harvard Business School had this insight: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Often entrepreneurs who are hoping to sell their product or service focus on what they “do” instead of how they “help.” Your clients, investors and potential business partners are only interested in having their needs met. Your audience have needs in the form of problems, fears or frustrations that they want solved. No one wants a drill for its own sake. They want a drill so that they can make a hole and then they can put up a shelf.  Your product or service (and the associated industry jargon) is not relevant to your client, investors and potential business partners unless it meets and satisfies their needs.

Secondly you can’t solve a need if you don’t know what it is.

So, stop talking about what you do and start asking your clients, investors and potential business partner’s questions. Use these questions to help both you and them to uncover, define and articulate their needs. When you have discovered their needs you can then match your features (jargon) with those needs so your clients derive a benefit.  Now you are speaking the language of your clients instead of your own.  That’s when the jargon becomes relevant. Stop trying to communicate or sell by making it all about you.  Instead, make it all about them.

Or as Dale Carnegie put it: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

See the Business in Vancouver: Ask the Experts article!