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Cut the claptrap, sell stuff and be proud

Have we lost sight of what our jobs are? Are we no longer proud of what we do? COLEBY NICHOLSON unmasks some of the business claptrap that could cause you to lose your way.

What is it with some business people these days? Are they getting more stupid? It’s no wonder we read about so many failed businesses when we can’t get the basics right!

I recently watched an interview with a CEO of a major retail chain who was announcing the closure of 40 stores because they were losing money. When asked about the future he replied, “The turnaround plan is based on listening to our customers, actively engaging with our customers and doing exactly what it is that they would want from us.”

Wow, that’s an amazing insight … Sell the stuff your customers want to buy.

And I bet this guy has a Harvard MBA too!

Seriously, business isn’t that hard. If you’re the CEO of a major company and you find yourself having to dish out such drivel to the media then I’m tipping you have a few more problems than you’re letting on.

Problems that are best explained by the CEO’s next comments: “So what else have we done? Well we have put more colleagues in-store to serve customers better and we have made the products they want more available at more affordable prices.”

Duh. No wonder this business is in trouble!

Not only have they just realised a successful business sells stuff that customers want but their salespeople have become “colleagues”. It gets worse. The CEO goes on to say that he plans to “improve the customer journey”.

You are kidding me, right? You can’t tell me that anyone visiting a supermarket is looking to be “served by a store colleague wanting to enhance your customer journey”.

No wonder this business isn’t selling enough; this CEO is employing colleagues to take the customers on a journey.

“Mate, I just wanna grab some milk and get home. The last thing I feel like right now is a trip with your staff, all I need is a cup of tea, ok?”

It’s pretty simple really; customers want to buy products at affordable prices and they want sales staff to serve them. So why can’t we call a spade a spade? Why do we need to talk about a “journey”?

Indeed, why do people need to invent these buzzwords or, more accurately, weasel words?

You know the type of language I mean: best practice, skillset, talent acquisition, face time, empower, deliverables, client-centric, paradigm shift, customer-facing and so many more.

”Don’t let this business claptrap mask the fact that your sole purpose is to sell stuff to people who want to buy. Your success is simple; have the right product at the right price with the right service."

They are weasel words and we’ve all heard them hundreds of times. One of my recent pet hates is 'thought leadership'. Anyone who promotes him or herself as being a 'thought leader' is a person to be avoided.

This term is increasingly used in marketing and selling and is designed to include some members and exclude others by suggesting that the so-called ‘thought leader’ has exclusive knowledge and insight.

The purpose of this politically-correct buzz-speak, or claptrap as I prefer to call it, is often to mask other issues. It’s often an attempt by managers to soften the blow – to avoid offending people or to make them feel better even if there’s no need – but I firmly believe that not calling a spade a spade can lead to unforeseen problems down the track.

It’s true that large companies are probably more guilty of this claptrap but increasingly I see it creeping into small to medium-sized businesses too.

For example, I’ll scream if I get one more press release from a jewellery supplier that describes something as being “part of our DNA”.

These days I immediately delete emails from people who say they have “reached out to me”. No, you have contacted me and there’s nothing wrong with saying that.

Likewise, emails from PR staff saying, “I’d like to share this press release with you” are quickly deleted.

No, as far as I am concerned, you “share” lollies or biscuits with someone, a glass of wine or even a taxi. Sharing is about doing something that you’re not obligated to do.

If you work in advertising, marketing or public relations then your job is to contact the media so you aren’t  “sharing” information; you are simply doing your job!

And especially don’t tell me you’re “sharing some information about the company’s DNA” either – not only will your email be deleted, it will be marked as spam never to be seen again.

If you can’t explain your business’s traditions, focus and qualities without the use of claptrap then go away.

Mind you, weasel words and buzz terms are not new – remember cyber, information superhighway and metrosexual? – but it seems to be more insidious these days.

Don’t let this business claptrap mask the fact that your sole purpose is to sell stuff to people who want to buy. Your success is simple; have the right product at the right price with the right service.

No amount of jargon, claptrap or BS will change that. Worse, this nonsense often conceals underlying problems that are not apparent because everyone is scooting around the issue. Or worse, sometimes words are used to hide the truth.

Maybe, just maybe, that supermarket CEO might not have needed to close 40 stores if someone stopped talking about taking customers on journey.

“Hey mate, we’re in deep shit. We don’t have enough staff on the floor to sell stuff and the punters are complaining that we don’t have what they want either. Perhaps we need to change some things, what do you reckon?”

The best form of management is to call a spade a spade.

And none of that is in your DNA either.

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

Independent Jewellers Collective (IJC)

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