Time to Kill Those Annoying Sales Pitch Terms?

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Gartner Distinguished Analyst Rolf Jester takes issue with the language of IT vendor sales pitches. Here's why in channel-speak, he's mostly right... and a little wrong.

[caption id="attachment_26558" align="alignright" width="300"]Princess Bride "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."[/caption]

When a colleague pointed out a recent blog post from one of Gartner’s most respected analysts bemoaning the use – or overuse – of a few hoary banalities in technology sales pitches, I clicked over expecting to be riled into disagreement. I love words, after all, and I frown upon discrimination of any sort, even of the etymological kind.

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The language at the intersection and sales can be a tricky thing. It’s deceptively difficult to boil complex IT concepts and business benefits down to an elevator pitch without employing some of the time-tested – if less than original – phraseology other sales and marketing professionals have already coined and trotted out for our amusement.

And when the advice comes from Gartner, which I think even their own folks would admit is often Ground Zero for arcane and indecipherable descriptors of technology markets and use cases, it’s easy queue up a bit of a smirk and an eye roll.

In fact, Rolf Jester’s brief rant on useless sales pitch terms isn’t so bad. He offers some simple, sound advice for wringing the fluff and pabulum out of technology sales pitches. I dare say we’re in agreement on the need to kill several hackneyed and meaningless vendor marketing phrases, something I attempted to point out in longer form last year.

“If you’ve read my research and the recent blog posts, you’ll have seen that I aim to help IT marketers and sales people; so, I’m in favor of good sales pitches,” Jester writes.  “But I hate waste of time and effort… bad selling makes me wince.”

Spoken like a guy who, like many of us in this business, has sat through one too many PowerPoint presentations from one too many vendors pitching one too many lackluster services or marginal, incremental product adjustments. Interestingly, most of the terms on Jester's hitlist are much more common to the channel than they are to the tech industry at large.

The top terms raising the vice president and distinguished analyst's hackles are:

  • Global presence
  • End-to-end offering
  • Solution provider
  • Focused on business value-add
  • Trusted partner for our clients
  • Our people

According to Jester, these rarely substantiated buzz terms are “mostly meaningless and irrelevant.  They are so common to all sales pitches that they have become white noise washing over the audience. Not only do people ignore them, they actually switch off and miss the unique gems of business value you are undoubtedly about to share with them.”

Well, yes and no. I feel the same way about things like “end-to-end” which seems to target the completely non-differentiating quality that a product does what it sets out to do. Imagine a car or a boat being marketed as an “end-to-end offering.” Presumably the value add is that it would take you where you want to go with a minimum amount of time sitting on the sidewalk or bobbing in the lake. Ridiculous.

But what about “value add” itself? It’s important to note that Jester is talking mainly about pitches made to clients. But as far as conversations go in the channel, the concept of “value add” is an integral and fairly elegant description of what partners live and breathe. In conversations among resellers and their vendor partners, the concept encapsulated in value add keeps everyone tightly focused on our raison d'être. Without “value add,” you’re just pushing boxes.

To Jester’s point, I suppose, if you’re pitching an end user client by calling your value add a “value add,” you’re probably doing it wrong. But I vote to salvage “value add,” at least for internal use. Same goes for “trusted partner” (or “trusted advisor”) and “solution provider.” These are not terms you want on your marketing collateral or in your PowerPoint pitches, but especially in the case of the former, they embody concepts vital to channel partners and their businesses; concepts many VARs and services firms are too quick to forget.

For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a vendor single out “our people” per se as a sales pitch bullet item. If I ever do, I promise to raise – swiftly and loudly -- Jester’s objections to it.

What do you think? Are these phrases overworked and annoying or simple and useful? What are some of the sale pitch phrases you could live a long and happy life without ever hearing again? Let me know at cgonsalves (at) the2112group (dot) com.

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