What Is Uncontrolled Vocabulary? - Great Demo

What Is Uncontrolled Vocabulary?

“And we offer the highest degree of allowlisting,” said the sales rep.

There were blank looks from the majority of the prospect players in the meeting, but no one said anything.

“But wait: There’s more! Our system delivers near-real-time dynamic allowlisting!” announced the rep, triumphantly, clearly expecting a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs”.

Again, there was no response from the prospect team. In fact, most of them looked confused and slightly annoyed. What was going on?

The vignette above was a segment of a recorded product demo that I was reviewing on behalf of the vendor who had asked me for comments and feedback. In my notes, I said there was clearly a problem with Controlled vs Uncontrolled Vocabulary, and included this explanation:

My colleague Steve Young taught me about Controlled Vocabulary years ago. He noted that vendors frequently use verbiage and jargon that is meaningless to prospects. At that time, we were exceedingly guilty of it ourselves, having just released our new disruptive, technologically advanced flagship product.

We had cooked ourselves a veritable stew of expressions, terms, phrases, words, idioms, and slogans that, while palatable to us, our prospects perceived it as entirely undigestible.

He pointed out that when all participants in a meeting share a common understanding of terms, it is “Controlled Vocabulary” and precise communication can be enjoyed. However, when one or more participants are unfamiliar with a word or a phrase, clear-cut communication is curtailed. 

These terms are “Uncontrolled Vocabulary” and they are effectively rejected by your audience. Even worse, Uncontrolled Vocabulary tends to annoy prospects, as it positions them as uninformed or worse!

The lessons are clear: 

  1. Ensure that you and your prospect share the same understanding of terminology.
  2. Identify and close any gaps.
  3. Use the prospect’s words whenever possible!

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