Resisting 'CuSpeak' Is Futile
As a business owner (and therefore a salesperson), a main goal is to effectively communicate with customers and prospects. It’s not just a matter of speaking, but rather a matter of taking into consideration the five elements of speech explored in this article when you communicate. Give it a try!
In his still-frightening classic dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell invented “NewSpeak”, the official language of Oceania used to control communication and thought.
So, let me pay homage to Orwell by inventing “CuSpeak” in his honor, the official language we should always use when speaking to customers and prospects and not nearly as creepy as “NewSpeak.” While it’s much harder to learn than “SAE” (Standard American English), it’s much more effective in influencing how our audience understands and views us.
Here are five reasons why CuSpeak is superior to SAE when it comes to your business.
Reason No. 1: CuSpeak is reader-centric.
Too many small businesses still communicate with customers using a “writer-centric” dialect. It’s what they speak and are comfortable using. But few, if any, customers speak their dialect. So, the result is often miscommunication or annoying the very people they want to influence.
Because CuSpeak is totally reader-centric, it embraces Dr. Tony Alessandra’s “Platinum Rule” concept and communicates with customers the way customers want to be communicated with. That’s the total opposite of their archaic Golden Rule approach—communicating with customers the way they want customers to communicate back with them.
Using the Golden Rule requires little assessment and no adaptation. CuSpeak must be individualized, based on the specific customer’s industry background, organizational and educational level and preferred communication style. Mastering it demands time, effort and analysis—often in short supply with most small businesses.
Reason No. 2: CuSpeak is buzzword-free.
CuSpeak doesn’t use buzzwords because they may be too specific to the particular small business. Instead, it prefers a simple word or phrase that clearly, consistently and universally has the same meaning as the buzzword.
If the airlines bought into this concept, they wouldn’t use the buzzword “deplane” but the more universally understood “exit the plane” or “leave.” Companies wouldn’t “escalate” a problem, but “take it to the next level of (management or procedure).” Lawyers wouldn’t “execute” a contract, but simply “sign and date” it.
Reason No. 3: CuSpeak is acronym free.
Acronyms are words created from the first letters of a name, like ABBA (Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, Annifrid) or group of words, like radar (radio detecting and ranging) that are pronounced as words. They’ve been around since the Roman Empire but came into popular use with the government or military, two institutions not known for effective customer communication. If you want to know for sure, look it up in the FAT (Federal Acronym and Terms) book. Really—I’m not making this up.
Your industry or business has lots of acronyms. So does your customer’s business, but they’re different. In CuSpeak, you minimize their use and always spell them out the first time. So, a marketing proposal may include BOGO (buy one get one) promotions, a pitch from an accountant might mention RITA (Regional Income Tax Administration) or a real estate development might mention NIMBY (not in my back yard). The parenthetical definitions take up minimal space and add subtle and convenient value.
Some words look like acronyms but are spoken as a string of letters, like FYI, R&D, Q&A or FAQ. While most of these are generally understood, you should define unusual ones by going beyond simply putting words to letter. For example, B&HU (Best & Highest Use) means the best return on investment for your time or resource, PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is telecom talk for switchboard and EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) refers to current operating profitability.
Reason No. 4: CuSpeak is vague-free.
CuSpeak is known for clarity. Simple, specific words rarely cause as much miscommunication for customers as vague references. So, opt for clarity wherever possible. Just so we’re clear, here are some examples.
- “By Friday at 5” is better than “in a few days” or “ASAP.”
- “Five complaints from three suppliers since Monday” is better than “a lot of complaints from some customers lately.”
- If the project will cost $5,950, then say “$5,950” instead of “about/around $5,900” unless you need to indicate a range, such as “$5,800 - $6,100.”
- Some vague references look like they’re hiding the truth. Isn’t “over plan by 27.6%” clearer and more honest than “more than a little bit over plan.”
Reason No. 5: CuSpeak is lame-free.
I use “lame” here to refer to ineffective style—using big words, wordy phrases or passive voice. CuSpeak doesn’t allow any of that—and I’m so glad. Check out the examples below.
- “Telephone” becomes “phone,” “compensate” becomes “pay,” “finalize” becomes “finish,” and “modification” becomes “change”—all with no loss of clarity or meaning.
- Turn “fluctuation” into “change,” “commence” into “begin” and “utilize” into “use.”
- Instead of adding four words with “to the extent that,” only add one with “if.” Instead of “each and every one of you,” save three words with “each of you.”
- There is no need to say ‘a check in the amount of $2,300’ when ‘a check for $2,300’ works better. And ‘at this present point in time.’ Is no clearer than ‘now.’
- Avoid the redundant “consensus of opinion” when “consensus” means the same thing. Why ever say “red in color” when all we need is “red?”
- CuSpeak loves active voice—it’s shorter, simpler and more conversational than passive voice. So, “The deadline will be determined” becomes “I/We/Anne will determine the deadline, ‘I/We/Hector will share the results Monday” is better than “The results will be shared Monday” and “I/We/Sue appreciate(s) your help” is more conversational than ‘Your help is appreciated.’
By now, it should be obvious that resisting CuSpeak is futile and stupid. Embracing it is a great strategy for differentiating your business from the competitors who don’t get it yet. It’s well worth the time and effort to become fluent. So, try it and let me know how well it worked for you.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.