Steve Kaplan's Blog

March 25, 2010

Language

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 9:50 am

Are you an Insider or Outsider? Once you speak, they will know.

When talking to an Elephant, you never want to look like what you probably are. Whether you like it or not- no matter how much business you’ve done with your Elephant- you are most likely perceived as an Outsider, if you aren’t speaking the Elephant’s language.  It’s your responsibility to set yourself apart from other Outsiders.

Every company speaks it s own language.  You’ve heard it.  We all have.  Unique acronyms, report names, buzzwords, clichés, and nicknames for people and facilities.

It is in your best interest to learn this language.  In order to learn this internal language, you will need to keep your eyes and ears open… at all times.  You would be surprised what you pick up on.  For instance, in meetings with your Elephant, jot down any unusual terms and phrases you see or hear.  If you cannot determine what the word or phrase means based on the context, nonchalantly ask a trusted contact during another conversation.

Every company has its own policies, practices and idiosyncrasies.  Studying them can only work to your advantage. My first Elephant, P&G, would almost never implement a national marketing proposal without first conducting a small-scale test to determine whether the proposed sales device would induce consumers to buy the product.  The company was very particular about market research, all of which had to be approved by vendors approved by Procter and Gamble.  Many marketing types clamoring for P&G’s business weren’t aware of this unofficial policy. Some of our competitors would put together tests without the P&G-approved market research or worse, they would design programs that would never sell simply because they hadn’t been pre-tested.  My company made sure market research was part of all our test programs.

After calling on P&G for a few months, it didn’t take long to start speaking the language.  Every time I heard a word, I wrote it down in a notebook (ie: “Central” = headquarters; “Blaze”= new product).  When scheduling meetings, putting together proposals… speaking or writing… I made sure to speak my Elephant’s language… fluently to establish my credibility and more importantly, to prove my Insidership.

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