How Biz Blab and Manipulative Language Erodes the Nobility of Sales (and why we have to stop it)

What does the phrase “state of the art” mean to you?

How about “third generation?”

Does that get you jazzed? Probably not.

Yet this is the kind of meaningless language that fills most business presentations.

Geoffrey James
Geoffrey James

Sales blogger Geoffrey James says, “You have to differentiate between jargon and biz blab.”

“Jargon,” says James – who writes the world’s most popular sales-oriented blog, “Sales Source on,” – “is a form of shorthand so that you can refer to something that would normally use a lot of words.” For example, scientists use jargon because, within their community, it speeds up communication.

Biz blab on the other hand, says James, “adds fat to the wording. It has no real content or value, it doesn’t mean anything. “

As someone who coaches sales teams, I’ve had the excruciating (and I do mean truly excruciating) experience of listening to

hundreds of presentations filled with biz blab. World class, turnkey solution, seamless integration, blah, blah, blah, can you see my hands flapping aimlessly in the air?

How to Say it Book JacketIn his book, How to Say It: Business to Business Selling, James provides a three-page list of buzzwords to avoid. Sadly, I’ve seen business people earnestly using every single one of them.

The only thing worse than meaningless language is manipulative language.

Sadly, this is in no short supply in the business world either. Many “experts” teach techniques designed to manipulate customers into buying.

For example, a currently popular sales approach recommends that salespeople “challenge customers and take control of the sale.”

I’m all for challenging people to think differently, but trying to control your customers is the wrong end game. It reinforces a mindset that says, we don’t work for customers; they work for us. You wind up eroding trust at the very moment you should be strengthening it.

James says, “So much is out of your control in sales. So it feels seductive (for sales execs) to think they can control things.”

The only problem is, it doesn’t work. And it’s not just a sales problem; it’s a human problem.

We all want things to go our way. It’s logical to believe that molding other people to fit our agenda is the best way to get there.

But the “Magic words to make people say yes” techniques ignore the most essential Majician Sillohouteelement of a human interaction: The other person.

Social science research (lots of it) shows we’re more likely to get the outcome we desire if we put our best skills in the service of helping the other person, rather than trying to control them.

It’s a question of intent. Techniques are just that, techniques. You can use them with self-serving intentions, or you can use them on behalf of creating a better outcome for everyone.

You’re fooling yourself if you think that people – be they customers or colleagues – can’t discern the difference between someone who wants to help versus someone who wants to control.

James ( says, “Sales is one of the most complicated psychological interactions for human beings that there is. It encompasses everything from psychology to business training.”

I believe that helping customers is one of the highest callings you can have in business.   There’s a grace and beauty to crafting your interactions in a way that bring about best outcomes for everyone.

Sales is a noble profession; we shouldn’t let it be sullied by the people who do it badly.

Check out some other great posts by Geoffrey James:
How to Write a Sales Email
6 Surprising Secrets of Truly Great Bosses
How to Sound Confident (Even if You’re Not)