401-423-2400 Kristin@Zhivago.com

Rude! The Language of Marketing and Sales

RevenueJournal_RudeLinguaFranca_Nov10_2011[1]“Overcome their objections.”

“Establish a relationship.”

“Target market.”

“Convert them.”




These phrases are the lingua franca of marketing and sales. And they are rude! Offensive to the very people they are referring to – the very buyers who are considered “the target market.” And they are a symbol of all that is wrong with marketing and selling right now.

Let’s take off our selling and marketing hats for a moment and look at these words from the buyer’s perspective.

Objections. I don’t have objections. I have valid concerns because of negative experiences with sellers. I’ve heard all the promises before. When I’ve believed the promises and bought, I’ve discovered how they were lying to me.

It’s no big deal when the disappointment involves small, inexpensive decisions. But it is a very big deal when my career or my business or my family’s financial future is on the line. That’s why I have learned not to trust the fancy promises. I have learned to doubt, and to question, and to talk to my friends (or working peers). It’s easier than ever to talk to other buyers or read what they’ve written online; I can gather a lot of data from talking to them before I ever talk to a salesperson, visit a website, or even go to a search engine.

I want answers. That’s all, just honest, accurate answers. But often salespeople focus on manipulation rather than knowledge and helpfulness. They treat me like an idiot who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. It’s tiresome, insulting, and it drives me away. I just don’t trust them.

Relationships. I’m not buying a relationship. I have plenty of relationships. I’m trying to buy a product or a service that meets a need. I just want that product or service to do what it is supposed to do. If it doesn’t, I won’t stick around.

Target market. Excuse me, but I am not a target. I know you like to think of me that way, because I may be interested in your product or service. But don’t treat me like a target. I am an individual with needs, and I’m hoping someone can meet those needs. Thinking of me as a target doesn’t make you think of me as an individual. It just makes it easier for you to insult or injure me.

Convert them. Nobody wants to be “converted.” If we see someone coming to convert us, we run as fast as we can in the other direction. What if I’m already sold on the idea of buying from you, before I even contact you? What if I’m already “converted” in my mind, in the sense that I have pictured finding, buying, and using your product, and I know exactly how I want it to go? What if the only thing keeping me from carrying out this scenario is you – because you’re not making it easy for me to find you, get my questions answered, trust you, and buy from you?

Personas. What if I went to a restaurant, and the waiter never came over to take my order. Instead, he took a look at me and decided, based on what I was wearing, what I would want to order. This is what personas remind me of. You may think you know who I am. Does that mean that you know what I want to buy and how I want to buy it? Not necessarily. [Too many marketers build personas without ever personally interviewing their customers.]

Push. Pull. Both of these words are insulting. I’m not a donkey. I’m your customer. I’m the source of your revenue. I’m going to pay for your retirement or your kid’s college education. Don’t push me. Don’t pull me. Get to know me, and then help me.


You can easily find out what future customers want from you, and how they want to buy it, IF you interview current customers after the sale, by phone, and ask open-ended questions. (Yes, I teach you exactly how in my book.)

Their answers will help you start treating your customers like human beings.

Future customers will see that you “get it” and are able to help them. They will literally go out of their way to do business with you.


  1. Normally sales & marketing professionals don’t use these rude terms externally. Although I have seen a couple of sales deck refer to objection handling (probably copied from sales training materials).

    The problem comes with how this “rude” language permeates the psychology and is a symptom of a company’s underlying values. All too often, companies are only driven by short-term revenue goals

    CEO reporting quarterly numbers to financial analysts
    Sales has to make quota or risk being fired
    Long-term success requires a whole new mindset and vocabulary

    Customer Value

  2. Yep. Well said.

    My concern is not so much that customers actually hear these comments, but that marketers and salespeople are filled with this language and then conduct themselves accordingly.

    It’s not like customers don’t sense it is going on, however. We all know when we are a “target,” even when the telemarketer tells you, “I’m not calling to sell you anything.” Yeah, right. I have so much fun with those folks. I always ask, “Well, then, why ARE you calling? Do I know you? Have we met? Did you think I could help you in some way? Or did you just pick my name out of the air and decide you wanted to chat?” Definitely a script-buster, which gives me some sort of odd satisfaction.

    Thanks for your comment. Always nice to hear from you. Note to readers: Giles is a software marketing specialist based in the UK. His site is SmartSoftwareMarketing.co.uk


  3. “Wallet Share” is another one of those offensive marketing terms. To me, it almost sounds like stealing from your customer …


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