Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Selling Demise

Who said “The art of persuasion depends on credible Euphemism.” ?

 I don’t know. I have just made it up.
I apologise if some great guru actually did or has said this but my quick search on Google has rendered a blank so I am claiming it as original for the moment.

The polite expression where words or phrases that might otherwise be considered rather  harsh or unpleasant  for the customer to hear is known as  Euphemisms.

 We use them a lot in front line selling and customer care to break the bad news or to play down disadvantages of an offer and emphasise the benefits on offere to the customer.

What causes uproar is their use in a ham-fisted way. Certainly the recent press release from  HSBC using the word ‘demise’ has got people much exercised.

“… The integration of advisers means the role of financial advisers will be demised. The proposals also require the role of HSBC’s Premier relationship managers to be diploma qualified. As a consequence the bank will be demising the roles of 914 relationship managers who do not give financial advice…….”

It does of course take courage to say a ‘job cut ‘in straight forward English.

One doubts Lord Alan Sugar would beat around the bush, firing someone in the Apprentice TV show or in his real business using the D-word. Back on our screens  Starting May7th Series 9 The Apprentice

Having your job cut  or being warned of redundancy is a nasty message to both give or receive but it is definitely worsened by clumsy  management speak and jargon.

In additon condescending reminders that one is now free to "pursue other interests" and "spend more time with the family etc". places a positive spin more for the benefit of the sack-er than the sack-ee.

The banks are currently working hard to build back trust through both their actions and words

It seems hard to distance oneself from corporate jargon it :-

For example Antony Jenkins, the bank’s chief executive of Barclays

  “I want to de-layer the organisation – creating a closer day-to-day relationship and clearer line of sight for myself into the business. We will organise our activity into more clearly delineated client-focused product sets.”

Banks are facing a struggle to regain trust. But the world at large is hardly going to believe that banks mean what they say if it's impossible to understand what banks mean when they say it.

Yet of course mankind has been sugar coating its language from earliest times because it is found to be effective if well done.

I remember once listening to a sales presentation from a food flavouring company where the speaker used the description ‘nature identical’ food flavouring . It was all so convincing. It was not until some time later that I realised he was talking about artificial flavourings - isomers of the natural occurring compounds!

Similarly I remember passing a stand at the Farnborough Air show where the Exocet missile was described in the blurb as ‘ field tested’ which of course meant used to kill in a real war.

 What makes a  euphemism acceptable is a rather subjective matter. So I guess it is easier to describe what a cheesy euphemism sounds or reads like.  It tries too hard , is unsubtle and sounds inauthentic.

Effective euphemism is a craft we all need to develop and keep up to date.
 Since yesterday’s subtle euphemism becomes tomorrow’s corny cliché resulting in selling’s demise.

Further reading and Links

From my bookshelf recommend :-

Francis Wheen’s “How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world” – ISBN 0-00-714097-5  2004

Don Watson’s “Gobbledygook” – ISBN 1-84354-359-1  2004

Unspeak™ by Steven Poole –ISBN 0-316-73100-5   2006

Words that work Frank Luntz Hyperion ISBN 1-4013-0308-0
It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear 2007

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