by Scott Kirsner

The Universal Vendor Translation Machine: Key Phrases that Salespeople Use and How to Understand Them

Jun 15, 20062 mins

“Fully redundant”

When the product fails, your IT staffers, working by the light of kerosene lanterns, may be able to restart the system using a length of stereo wire, some Juicy Fruit and a car battery.

“24/7 customer support”

You’re welcome to call and talk to our automated phone system any time you want.

“Begins shipping later this quarter”

We use the terms “quarter” and “decade” interchangeably here.

“The leading provider of…”

Just got the venture capital firm’s check last week and finally moved the company out of the dorm room.

“Backward compatible”

Version 2.0 is guaranteed to read files created by Version 1.9 for at least five (5) business days.

“Merger of equals”

We actually believed our own sales forecasts, opening us up to a hostile takeover. In six months, no one will remember our name.

“Ajax-driven Web application”

Guaranteed to crash your browser.

“Open source”

You’ll be relying on Latvian high school drop-outs for upgrades.

“Integrated security”

We bought a little firewall startup and grafted their code onto ours.

“Conceptually, we’re a Web 2.0 company”

Desperately trying to resuscitate ideas from the dotcom era.

“Ensures SOX compliance”

When your CEO and/or CFO winds up behind bars, we’ll send brownies.

“Free six-month trial”

After trial ends, salespeople will call you, e-mail you, IM you, rent blimps to fly over the links while you’re golfing and, if necessary, camp out in your outer office until you agree to buy the product.


Too complicated for consumers or small businesses to use.


System runs beautifully as long as no wackos attempt to change the configuration, delete a user or add a record.

“Intuitive user interface”

After two weeks of offsite training, several of your brighter employees will have figured out how to log on.

“Positive ROI within 12 months”

By uninstalling our hardware after 364 days, your time will be freed up to work on more productive things.