Speaking corporate lingo


Are there resources out there on the etiquette and 'lingo' used when talking/contact companies? Working with small companies it's all quite easy-going, but I don't want to give away in 5s to to a company VP that I'm startup novice :)


asked Jun 30 '11 at 21:10
173 points

2 Answers


The best corporate lingo is to pay attention and ask a lot of questions. Not only will you learn more but you'll discover people love to talk about themselves. You might find that after a 10 minute conversation you've only asked 3 questions and they did all the talking. They'll go tell their buddy your the best conversationalist they've met in years.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 21:38
309 points
  • +1: This is right on the money. Fresh out of college in 1979, my Fortune 500 employer sent me for the first in-person contact at a potential key business partner. When I got back, my boss said, "The guy you met called me. He said his first thought was, 'Is Tandy Corp serious? What the hell did they send this damn kid for?' But then I watched how he conducted himself, and I just had to call to say how impressed I was." And all I did was exactly what this answer says: keep my mouth shut except to ask questions, make brief intelligent responses to the answers, and ask more questions. – Bob Murphy 13 years ago


Lingo Unless you're talking about things like standard commercial contract terms (e.g. "2% 10 net 30") you'd find here, it's going to depend completely on the company's industry and location, and it changes all the time.

For instance, I've worked in the hand tools manufacturing industry, where everybody knows what a "screw machine" is, and writing software in Silicon Valley, where most people would have no idea and probably snicker about it.

But it's not worth worrying about. Until you've been in an industry for a few years, people are going to peg you as an outsider or noob in 5s no matter what you do, and trying to avoid that will just mark you as a wannabe who misuses the jargon. Just focus on using plain language to describe how your products and services can solve their problems, and ask about any lingo they use that you don't know, and you should be fine.

Etiquette You seem interested in sales starting with a cold call. Your preferred search engine will turn up lots of hits for "business etiquette", "cold call etiquette" and "sales etiquette", and there are books on how to sell effectively, but here are a few general tips.

  • Always be polite and use "standard English".
  • If you're meeting them in person and you know the norm for attire in their industry, dress a little better than that. If you don't know the norm, find out. If you can't find out, wear a conservative suit and tie that fits you well and looks good.
  • Respect the other person's time and attention, and above all, don't be a pest.
  • Don't cuss or make sexist/racist/dirty jokes, even if they do.
  • When you shake hands, do it firmly but not bone-crushingly, and a bit more firmly for men than for women.
answered Jul 1 '11 at 05:35
Bob Murphy
2,614 points
  • Yeah, it's basically for either cold-calling or first call after an email introduction. To business rather than technical people so it's not about terminology, as much as trying to 'sound like' a business person. Whatever that means! – John 13 years ago
  • Just be yourself. If you are passionate and honest, that will get you a long way. – Susan Jones 13 years ago

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