Understanding children is a challenge. As infants their only communication method is to cry. As toddlers they can begin to communicate with words, but often when communication efforts fail they revert to crying. As teens the communication gap only grows. With the evolution of slang and technology, communicating with the younger generations is still challenging and still results in tantrums. Of course, there are ways to ease this communication gap. As babies, my kids learned sign language. While I didn’t catch on to all of it, I did learn “more” and “please”. As kids age, we as parents work to better understand the slang and jargon used. Perhaps we listen to the music our kids listen to, or watch the same shows they do. It’s very much like learning a foreign language. A foreign language you must learn in order to survive, and when breaks in communication occur, so can breaks in relationships. translation.jpg

As marketers we hear repeatedly the importance of speaking the same language as your customers and prospects. This is absolutely true. But it’s very difficult to speak the language of customers when the language spoken between sales and marketing is so foreign that neither can communicate what needs to be communicated to the customer. I learned this first hand when evaluating the use of marketing content and sales tools.

Marketing had spent the better part of a year conducting content audits, segmenting content, and mapping content. In marketing, and in our content audits, we classify our buy-cycle stages as “Interest”, “Educate”, “Evaluate”, “Justify”, and “Purchase”. Along with the content auditing, we had launched several sales tools to our sales organization. When reviewing the activity over the previous 8 months, I found the usage of the tool was acceptable, but not completely leveraged. And while the content and tools were used, they weren’t used when they should be used. A lot of early stage content was delivered later in the buy-cycle. When speaking with those using the tools I discovered that they were unclear when “Interest” content should be used vs. “educate content”. The folder structure of our content within the sales tool was also confusing. Our problem was that sales and marketing weren’t speaking the same language.

While marketing understood the terminology and content types used in those phases, our sales teams did not. We tried to force our language on sales. Our sales teams break their buy-cycle stages out as “Try”, “Approach”, and then they classify “Work In Progress” stage 0-5. These are the stages sales reports on to upper management, and the stages classified in our CRM system. We knew we needed to adjust our terminology so it would align with our sales classifications. We decided to map our marketing stages to their buying stages and then reclassify the content mapping used by sales. Now when sales uses a template, based on the phase identified in the CRM system, they can select the appropriate buy-cycle folder and view content relevant to that specific phase.

When studying foreign languages in school I was taught the best way to learn was to completely immerse myself in that language and culture. This is still applicable when referring to learning the language of your teens, your customers, or your sales teams. Guessing about what words mean, or worse, forcing your language on someone else, will only result in confusion, un-productivity, and relationship disrepair.

Immerse yourself, learn the language, and then speak it. Do you speak the same language as others in your organization?