Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Give More Thought to Cliches

Fred Wilson's Blog "AVC" had a terrific post on the ubiquity of cliches within business circles. He writes

I’ve always been a fan of the cliché. I started out in the VC business working for two guys, Milt Pappas and Bliss McCrum, who had been in the venture business for close to 20 years when I joined them. They had developed a ton of experience and Bliss, in particular, had a tendency to summarize that experience with clichés. I always loved it when Bliss would say something like “that dog won’t hunt” after meeting with a management team. He could have said, “I don’t see how that deal is going to work”, or “I think we should pass on the deal”, but “that dog won’t hunt” was always more colorful and more fun.
Cliches, one might say, are the sin qua non of business talk. I use them daily, sometimes to the chagrin of my colleagues or onlookers. But I don't care--my clients love them and cliches most always elucidate what otherwise might be convoluted financial matters or recommendations. For example, when I used to pitch stocks over the phone, I sold dozens and dozens of people by simply telling them to "pick up 1000 shares of stock ABC--it's a dunk shot." That's a lot sexier than telling someone Corning stock was on its way up. However, I'll never forget when one of those clients ended up correcting me--"Dan, don't you mean 'it's a layup?'" I've heard people talk about stock, insurance policies, and other financial instruments in bland terms--c'mon spice it up people. Language sells.

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