March 18, 2019

Do you want 10, 12, or 14 gauge?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on March 20th, 2019

There is a company in Minneapolis called Wendells that has been in business since 1882. Wendells is a custom mint, which is to say that they produce custom designed coins for people.

I called them to get some prices for an idea I’ve been toying with - i.e., a bronze “daily reminder” coin covered with HBIN-isms like “Sell your head, not your hands” and “I don’t have an hourly rate” and “Why this? Why now? Why me?” and so on.

Much to my delight, the phone was answered by a real live human. I told her that I was researching the idea of having a batch of custom coins made. I had a few questions about what that would entail and wanted to get some prices.

She explained in general terms what the design process would be like, roughly how long it would take to produce the coins, what my packaging options were, and so on. So far, so good!

When it came time for her to quote me some prices, she had to get into the specifics of my project. Here’s how it went:

Her: Do you want printing on both sides?

Me: Yes.

Her: Will the design be different on both sides?

Me: Yes.

Her: Will there be images or just text?

Me: Both.

Her: Will you be providing the images or can we use stock art?

Me: I will provide the images.

Her: What metal do you want: Copper, bronze, or nickel?

Me: Bronze.

Her: Do you want 10, 12, or 14 gauge?

(Insert needle scratch sound effect here)

Erm…? What gauge do I want?

I’ve been around the block more than a few times, but the only time I’ve ever heard the word “gauge” used in conversation has been during our annual pilgrimage to the shotgun range where my youngest brother likes to celebrate his birthday.

I had no idea what she was asking when she asked me what gauge I wanted. When I asked for clarification, she explained that “it’s the thickness of the coin, 10 being the thickest and 14 being the thinnest.”

Okay, but… that still didn’t give me enough info to answer the question.

So I asked, “Could you translate the gauges into something I might understand like, oh I dunno… millimeters?”

At this point, she confessed that most people didn’t know what gauge was and that she virtually always had to convert it into something more widely understood. Which raises the question:

Why do they use gauge at all when talking to prospective customers?!

Here’s the thing…

This is a classic example of using “inside baseball” language with an “outside baseball” person. It’s me-focused instead of you-focused. It’s inward, not outward. This is bad.

Industry jargon does not impress your buyers, it alienates them. It indicates that you lack self-awareness and empathy. It erodes trust and increases perceived risk. This is bad.

If the Wendells team needs to communicate internally in terms of gauge measurements amongst themselves, that’s fine. But why after more than 100 years in business would you use a term with your prospects that you know they don’t understand?

How does this apply to non-mint businesses like yours?

Here’s how:

Think back to your last sales interview with a new prospect. Did you use any jargon? Did they have to ask you to explain any terms? Did they cock their head like a confused puppy when you rolled out an alphabet soup of TLAs?

If not, great! But if so, you’ve got an opportunity for improvement. Avoid jargon at all costs. Use terms that make sense to your potential buyer. They’ll thank you for it with big checks :-)