Say What? ROI?

Career changes are exhilarating. They are also very hard. Something that I knew coming into software sales from special education was that there were going to be major differences. One thing that I didn’t know was that there are so many “business words” that mean something totally different to the rest of the non-business world population, ie..Me 4 years ago. Before I outline these I will start with an admission story. I didn’t know any of these words when I moved to this world and often times I find myself Googling business acronyms, so I don’t look like a big dummy.

I’ll never forget the first time I realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing in the business world. I was in Chicago, a city that is now incredibly near and dear to my heart, for a Workday Way training where we learned the way to win in selling. Boy was I over my ski tips! Just months before I was making Behave-O-Mometers (which I still believe in) for my sweet, well not always sweet, boys with Emotional Behavioral Disorders in a concrete, 16×16 classroom with nothing but a whiteboard, a desktop and a security guard in the hallway. I looked around the conference room and realized I was surrounded by mostly men learning about the software sales process. What the heck had I gotten myself into and what language were these people speaking?  The trainers were internal and are some of my all-time favorites. They had this amazing play on words with fish terms which made zero sense to me, but it made me stay intimately engaged. Kudos for the random engagement pun, team!

As I engaged in this training, wildly prematurely for my tenure and role, I quickly became known as the girl who had no idea what the heck was going on. They were talking about “ROI,” “ACV,” “retiring quota,” and how to “manage a patch.”  ROI was not making sense to me in this context – at all! In fact, very little made sense. I asked so many questions. At one point on day 2, George asked “Does that make sense to everyone?” Everyone sat quietly. George turned directly to me and said, “Meredith, do you understand?” I said, “You know George, I actually do.” He said “Ok, if Mer gets it, everyone gets it.” In good ole’ Workday family fun, I stood up and said “Did you just use me as a baseline?” “Indeed” he said.  Exhibit A of why I liked him so much. He was honest, funny and sarcastic. I sat back down and continued taking handwritten notes with a mechanical pencil in my spiral notebook.  ROI kept coming up. I’ll never forget raising my hand (old school style) and asking, “what is ROI?” In my experience it’s “rate of improvement” in reading fluency. George looked at Pete, Pete looked at Rob, Rob shrugged and said “Mer, its return on investment.” Within a second, the room was giggling and everyone was staring at me. I was quickly brought back to the Williamsport bus route in grade school where the mean boys used to sing songs about me being a flat-chested tomboy and bigger than your average bear. I felt like a big ole’ idiot. It was at this point where I realized that words and terms are 100% contextual based on your industry. Head held high, I committed to learning this business and these terms.

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For now, I will highlight the Top 10 most overused business terms from my world of work that have completely different meanings to the outside world.

  1. Take this Offline– For the average ear this is confusing. Are we really online or just on a call or in a meeting room? Outside of the corporate world this makes no sense. Honestly, even in the corporate world, if you really think about it, it doesn’t make much sense.  Why can’t we just say “we’ll talk about that later?”
  2. Perspective– Wow my perspective is way different when I look at something from low to high than when I look from the high to low. Perspective in my old world was always used to reference an angle. In this new world, it’s always attached to a person or a process. Now I’m talking about things from a “sales perspective” or from “a culture perspective.” I use this one a lot but, gosh, it took me a while to say it with confidence.
  3. Ping Me– As a lifelong golfer this one is always hard for me to say or hear. I get the sentiment but for the majority of my life this was a leading brand of golf club! Why can’t we just say “call me” or “text me?”  Runner up on this on is “let’s connect later.”  What are we appliances and electrical outlets?
  4. Slide Deck– Boy this one is a whammy for me! Growing up going to Lake Hartwell this was a fun way to get from the top of the dock to the lake if you didn’t want to jump off the second story. Even in business context it is awkward. What ever happened to calling it a PowerPoint presentation or just “slides?” Silly little bone-chilling trendy term.
  5. Talk Track- I mean, I get it. I have to use this one often and it makes more sense in context than some of the others. However, when I first came into this world, I had no idea what the heck a talk track was, was it something we were going to record like how cool music people or railroad engineers talk about “laying down a track?” The non-business people in the world should just ignore this phrase and never even attempt to deconstruct it.
  6. Work Around– Work around what? The house? The yard? This one is also silly. Why is “alternative” now persona non grata? There are so many more reasonable terms to use that, in my opinion, have a more positive connotation anyway that don’t make the “alternative” sound like it’s going to be hard.  How about “we have a solution for that” or “we can solve the problem by …. ?”
  7. Do you have the Bandwidth? Huh? What? Is this my ring size, a radio term, science vernacular or a measure of transmission capacity? What IS the frequency Kenneth?  I finally figured this out. All in all, it simply means, do you have time to do XYZ ? I am so confused about why people don’t just say that!
  8. Value Add- For most of my life, value was a word I looked for on packages at the grocery store that meant I was finding the, less expensive but still good, off brand. “Value add” seems like a made up link of words simply to make us sound smarter. “What’s the value add?” Let’s be honest that is jargon. The real question is, “How is your company or the software or the team making the deal or process better?”
  9. Thought Leadership- I. Just. Can’t. Leadership is leadership and leaders have thoughts.  People leaders, c-suite leaders, line leaders – all of these folks have “thoughts” for Pitty’s Sake. This one will fade 😊 (only to be replaced by “action leadership.”
  10. To Piggy Back On- I saved the best for last. Outside of work jargon this literally means for someone to carry another person on their back. In the business world, in my opinion, this is said as a precursor to a comment that is frankly, unnecessary, but folks want to say something or “pile on.” If a work conversation is progressing forward there is no need to justify that this is a reiteration or additional detail to the previously mentioned comment.

Now that I have fussed about these sayings I will admit that I USE THEM ALL THE TIME! They do make sense in context, but having transitioned from a world where we didn’t speak using this lingo,it has been a confusing, albeit fun, ride learning this new language.  If you have the “bandwidth” my “ask” of you is “to piggy back on” this blog post with some of your own “perspective” and “thought leadership” on the topic.  Go ahead and “ping me” in the comments by “unpacking” some of your own favorite corporate jargon as that would be a great “value add” and most certainly increase the “ROI” on my “output!”

Stay sanitary my friends and remember to always clean your tray tables!