By John R. Graham
As companies whack away at their budgets, cut out capital expenditures and dismiss employees, there is still room for additional sacrifices , things every business can easily do without, particularly in a time of economic distress.
Here is what can be called a “starter list” of “things” we don’t need:
1. “We’re hunkering down.” Why do corporate types act so macho in good times and so wimpish when things get rough? Whenever trouble hits, they’re the first to run for cover and let us know that it’s time to “hunker down.” What they’re really doing is letting the world know they haven’t got a clue how to solve the problem.
2. “I am reaching out to you ” The words ooze nothing more than feigned sincerity. But don’t be fooled. Frightfully sinister and seductive, they’re just another way of saying, “I want to sell you something” or “I want you to do something for me.” Those who use them don’t care about anything other than getting their own way. Reach out all you want, but don’t touch.
3. “Mr. Mason is going to be in your area on Friday. He would like to stop by ” This is an update on the antiquated and ineffective “cold call.” The only possible response when you hear this one: “Please tell Mr. Mason to have a nice lunch at McDonald’s.”
4. “We’ll exceed your expectations.” The time of death has come and gone for this one. No one knows what those three words mean. What is so utterly crazy is that we use the phrase without even pretending to know or understand someone’s expectations; yet, we make it clear that we are going to exceed them.
5. “Best practices.” This belongs in the same class with “exceed your expectations.” Anyone who uses the term “best practices” thinks that just by using the term makes a positive and powerful impression. It’s another instance of verbal sleight of hand.
6. “I sent you information a couple of weeks ago ” This one deserves extra attention, since it’s the most unsuccessful way to make contact with a prospect. It’s closely related to another loser, “I sent you information about our company ” If you’re serious about prospecting (most salespeople only think they are, by the way; they want a sale, not a customer), then the only successful strategy is to develop a campaign that is designed to create credibility by helping the recipient and offering value.
7. “Think outside the box.” The problem here is twofold. First, the term is dated, a good reason not to use it. It also shows that you are “out of the loop,” whatever that means. Second, most people who take the idea of thinking seriously, discover that those who rule their lives on the job get stressed, angry, afraid and destructive when anyone dares to pull themselves outside the box.
8. “Toxic.” Who would have thought “toxic” would achieve such widespread use? Not only are dumps toxic, but so are mortgages and former Wall Street barons. The toxic catalog is wide ranging, including toxic attitudes, toxic facts and probably even toxic customers.
9. “We’re restructuring.” The words exemplify the trouble they have with language. Better yet, the problem they have is trouble with the truth. They avoid it whenever they can , and that’s most of the time. When they say, “We’re restructuring,” they do it in a way that suggests we should be excited, happy and proud that they are about to announce another layoff or lousy quarter. They simply can’t bring themselves to say that the company is in deep financial trouble.
10. Stop handing out business cards. When you think about it, the business card is dead. It has become a useless failure. When you give out your card, you are really asking the recipient to do something with it: They must figure out where to file it or scan it into their electronic address book. There’s a far better solution. When exchanging business cards, just ask for the person’s e-mail address or cell phone number and, while you’re still talking, “beam” your v-card to them from your smart phone.
11. “Corporate culture.” Neither “corporate” nor “culture,” it’s the sum of a company’s irrational and nonsensical notions for successfully eliminating anyone expressing an innovative or creative idea.
12. “Passionate.” Try to find a resume that doesn’t fail to describe the job applicant as not just interested, competent, excited and rarin’ to go to work, but , that’s right , passionate! And why not? It’s a quality that can’t be measured or quantified. If you need to use “passionate” to describe your work ethic, you probably aren’t.
13. And finally photos of people with a hand on their chin. For some unknown reason, this popular pose probably began in a last-ditch effort to make dumb executives and pseudo professionals who lack in even basic critical thinking capabilities, look smart. All they do is make them look naturally stupid. Getting rid of the junk in our heads is not only a good idea, but it may help us think clearer and work more productively, which is what it will take to get out of the economic morass so we can do more business.
John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services consulting firm. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.