Buzzwords to Avoid In Your Sales Pitch

Buzzwords are easy. Too easy. Using a few of them in your next sales pitch or investor presentation might make you sound like all those folks presenting in sweatshirts and jeans. But there’s easy, and then there’s effective pitching.

These ten tired words and phrases have become industry tropes. So the jokesters here at Propoint made some fun of this oft-used language, and we’re suggesting ways to get around them. That’s not to say you can never use these words. The lesson here is to focus on substance, not buzz.

Thinking outside the box

thinking outside the box gif buzzwords industry jargon

We all value creative thinking, so why does everyone use the same hackneyed phrase to describe it? “Think outside the box,” got its start as a management term in the late 60s and early 70s. Since then, you’ve likely heard it in every mediocre presentation you’ve ever seen.

Instead of uttering this banal idiom, show off your product’s unique advantages and the process that helped you discover them. Encourage others to attack problems from new angles. But don’t do it using this phrase. You’ll remind people of our little cat buddy up there.


disrupt gif

We get it. You’ve just read The Innovator’s Dilemma and you’ve for sure got the next ‘Facebook for Uber for Airbnb for unicorns’ in your hands. Clayton Christensen’s classic book, which explained how seemingly monolithic companies fail, inspired countless startups into thinking they could “disrupt” established industries.

So you say you’re about to “disrupt” a tired marketplace. Then everyone rolls their eyes and thinks “this again?” We’ve got news for you buddy: the word “disrupt” is ready for retirement. Make your case plainly. What’s your opportunity? And what’s your plan to take advantage of it?


innovative innovation gif

As disrupt’s close cousin, innovative is used to position your company or product as a break from competitors. Problem is, everyone else had the same thought, and they’re using the same word. You might find a trend here. Focus on describing how or why the product you’re pitching is different. Leave buzzwords to the press.


actionable gif

Are we referring to marketing metrics or how many moveable joints your G.I. Joe toy has? Jokes aside, we know that data on which you can base decisions is hugely valuable. In your pitch, talking about that value will take you farther than calling any number “actionable.”


optimize gif

Go ahead and use this word if you want to sound like a Transformer. What you mean to say is that you’re making something more efficient. These days, you might hear someone say they’re optimizing their pizza-making skills. Or that they’re optimizing their yoga routine.

This word has drifted into parody, and doesn’t belong in your sales pitch. Instead, say you’re refining, or sharpening your methods, and go straight into how or why you’re doing it.


content marketing

So what is content? Is content ads? Is content blog posts? What you’re reading now is content (so meta right?) It’s a vague word to used to describe creative works aimed at furthering a company goal. Is your video trying to establish a set of brand values? Is your landing page copy helping your conversion rate? All content. But the blanket term devalues the work it describes. You know what I’m going to say. Avoid it.


synergy gif

Um no. Don’t be that guy. Just look at Topher Grace. Synergy is used to mean working in unison. But it’s also a classic, cold business term that—like the word “optimize,”—is now ripe for parody. Saying your teams are collaborating sounds more natural, and could well be closer to what you mean anyway.


pivot gif

If you’re pivoting, Kevin O’Leary wishes you luck.

When you say your company is pivoting, here’s what many people hear: “We’re screwed so we’re remaking ourselves completely in a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are pivot success stories. Twitter—now a $17 billion company—started as a side project inside a podcast directory called Odeo, before the team pivoted to focus on building out their new microblogging platform. But using the word “pivot” in your pitch might raise red flags about your company. Instead, talk about the new opportunity your team has uncovered, and why it’s worth pursuing.

Thought Leader

thought leader gif

What’s something all thought leaders have in common? They tend not to call to themselves thought leaders. If you’re trying to establish authority in a field, do it with your insights. Take Ben Thompson, author of the super-popular Stratechery blog. He writes well-reasoned, well-researched pieces on technology and business, but he doesn’t tout his own influence while doing it.


KPI key performance indicators

Maths, am I right? By now, you should be well aware why each of these words make your sales pitch weaker. They obscure your unique message behind thin industry-speak.

KPI—or Key Performance Indicitor—is a bit of a buzzy dark horse. It sounds like it should matter, and it does! It’s supposed to define your company’s success. But all too often, companies use this term to throw data at you without explaining why one metric is supposed to be pursued or celebrated over all the others. Identify which points you want to highlight and why. If you wind up calling them KPI’s, we’ll let it slide.

We’ve had some laughs at these buzzwords’ expense…

But really, there’s no hard and fast rule against using them. Only you can really know what the right word is for the message you want to send. Choose your spots and make them count.

Now let’s all go synergize on ways to turn ourselves into thought-leaders with content that will hit all the right KPI’s. If that doesn’t work, we’ll optimize our data, and get actionable results, think outside the box and then pivot towards something innovative that will disrupt our industry.

Illustration by Jeff Gess, Propoint Designer

GIFs via Giphy.