• The Language of Sales: What to Say (and Not Say)

    March 22, 2005
    The language of sales is one in which complex thoughts are simplified. Vexing decisions are reduced to their obvious conclusions. Lack of clarity becomes

    The language of sales is one in which complex thoughts are simplified. Vexing decisions are reduced to their obvious conclusions. Lack of clarity becomes crystal clear.

    This language contains words and phrases capable of stirring emotion, stifling indecision, conveying agreement, and convincing even the most adamant prospect. Words are powerful.

    Words have made and ruined careers. It’s your selection — good and bad — that to a large extent determines your career. Scary thought? Not after you read this.

    There’s no love for the salesperson whose flowery prose is seen as too slick. There’s no respect for the salesperson who delights in displaying his full technical expertise on every question.

    So we’re not asking you to develop an arsenal of $100 words on a $2 budget. We’re asking you to learn to speak in terms in which the consumer can easily relate.

    You can begin by becoming aware of the words you use as well as the reactions you cause. Are the reactions positive or negative? What facial expressions are reactions to your language? This chapter will expand on a few examples.

    Hot Sales Words to Exchange Now

    Do not use the word Contract. Use Agreement or Proposal.

    Contract is a traditional sales word that is seen as very formal or potentially destructive to the customer. The replacement word, agreement, involves the customer or another person. The customer feels better because he is agreeing with you. Proposal implies the consumer makes the ultimate decision.

    Do not say “I need your signature here,” or “Sign this here.” Say “Please okay this here,” or “Please okay this and date it.”

    You want to make the consumer feel like he has power. It is, after all, his decision. The latter two phrases present the task simply and with much less formality. Signing is often associated with “Signing away something.” Okaying is much more like “Agreeing.”

    Do not say, Buy or Spend when you can say Invest.

    Buy and spend infer giving something up, something that may not come back. Investment implies a return. You can also refer to something as a good investment or “getting a good return on this investment.

    Do not say, Your first payment. Say, Initial investment.

    Same as above. One implication is negative; the other is more positive.

    Do not say, Our price or Our discount. Speak in terms of Your savings, Your payback, Your discount.

    Let these dollars become their dollars. The inference is entirely different and far more agreeable.

    Do not say, Five thousand two hundred and eighty dollars. Say, Fifty-two eighty.

    Dollars are too valuable, and five thousand of them are too many. Reduce the blow by quoting your company’s prices with a little tact. Remember, you’re selling value, not price. It’s an investment.

    To illustrate word choice illustrations, say these two phrases out loud...

    • “With our price, you pay us five thousand two hundred and eighty dollars.”
    • “Your discounted investment that will pay you back for years is just fifty two eighty.”

    Which sounds far less harsh? It makes a difference.

    It all adds up to a better, more approachable, less committal tone of language. The message is much easier to your new customer.

    Now try this out. Which sounds better to you?

    • “Once you sign this contract, then we can set up our installation crews to come back.”
    • “Just okay this agreement and we’ll schedule the installation at your convenience.”

    The language of sales harmony is a song when compared to the brashness of low performance salespeople.

    What You Should Always Say

    Need more words that have proven power? Yale University has found that the following words are the most persuasive in the English language:

    • easy
    • results
    • save
    • discover, reveal
    • guarantee
    • safety
    • free
    • profit, return
    • health
    • love
    • money, cash
    • investment
    • proven
    • you, yours
    • gain, benefit
    • now, new

    If you haven’t yet discovered the significance of these words, you aren’t making enough sales calls! In your sales presentation, adopt these words for your standard vocabulary.

    These words are used often in good marketing and should be implemented in your sales process. Believe me, as a copywriter, I’ve seen massive differences in response by changing very few words.

    Words and language lead your prospects to draw inferences about your company and your knowledge.

    The following is a list of Dream Phrases that are more like thoughts you should convey to your poor, confused prospect who is just looking for a solution.

    Show him you know how to make his dreams real by conveying:

    • I know who you are. This dream phrase lets your prospects know that you know them, their needs, their neighborhood, and their demographics. You can say this by knowing a little service history, when they used your company last, who built the home, or the age of their system. This speaks to them as unique.
    • I know how to fix your problem. This dream phrase demonstrates your knowledge of HVAC systems. Your prospects put confidence in you. You say this by fully explaining the problem, and telling them how you can give value with your solutions and your company’s plan. This speaks to them as fixable.

    When you close a sale, you’ve moved systematically towards that close in small incremental steps that have gotten agreement, or been acknowledged as okay with the prospect.

    Go too fast and you lose people. Go too slow and you bore people. So unless you’re psychic, get small agreements and nods of approval en route. It’s easier, faster, and more fully understood.

    Often these pre-closes are called trial closes in order to gain access to the all-important closing process.

    Trial closes gently motivate your prospect to the next step. In turn, they help you wrap up your presentation so you can move into getting the order from them. Try these out:

    • What do we still need to do? In a way, you are asking your prospect what he or she wants you to do in order to close the sale. The focus is on the consumer with an open-ended question.
    • Is their anything else I can answer for you about this? With this open-ended question, your prospect will tell you exactly what he wants or needs. You can leave a complication or sticking point knowing that it won’t come up as an objection later. You’re stopping the objection before it starts.
    • Does this make sense? You’re obviously seeking a “Yes” which is the most powerful thing they can say. You also know if you’re getting through to them. Only explain things that need to make sense or answer a direct question. Please don’t try to explain the theory of convection to them. If they say, “Yes” to this, congratulate them and move on. They’ll feel understood and appreciated.
    • How close are we to reaching an agreement? This will most likely get a direct answer. From your prospect’s answer, you should know how you have progressed on this particular call. Your customer will inform you about what you need to do to convince him of your product or service. If they back up on you, you’ll know you have more work to do. Do not ask this unless you’re sure you’re ready to close or it will turn them off.
    • Does this sound fair? Seriously powerful question. It shows you’re out to obtain fairness. And that, my friend, is the object of any sale.

    What You Should Never Say

    Ever met an annoying salesperson? Who hasn’t? The most annoying have a long list of the wrong things to say.

    You’ve doubtless seen the power in good word and phrase choices, but here are some things that rank very high on the annoyance meter. These cost sales every day for the low performance salesperson:

    • The wrong name. You can surely get the name right for the hour or so. Run it through your head, out of your mouth, and in natural conversation whenever it fits.
    • Any fake or invented answer. What a terrific way to break trust, set yourself up for embarrassment, and get complaints to your boss. You just never know. It’s better to say, “That’s a great question and I’ll jot that down and find out for certain.”
    • Saying “I can’t” when you really mean “I won’t.” If something is honestly outside your job description, then the customer will understand if you tell them why you’re unable. Otherwise, if you refuse to be helpful due to laziness, unwillingness, or because it’s different, then get out of the “helper business.”
    • Use “HVAC jargon” without explaining what it means. Hopefully, you explain thoroughly the benefits and not just the features. You’re supposed to emphasize your value, not speak over someone’s head for your own benefit.
    • Don’t discuss irrelevant topics. Don’t discuss your problems at home, how hard you work, or how you’re having a mole removed next Tuesday. Your prospect’s time is of the essence. Drifting off the subject for the sake of hearing yourself speak will work against you every time.

    There are other important items to avoid saying, but I cannot tell them to you! (At least not directly.) What I mean is your knowledge and sensitivity to your customer will guide your mind to respond correctly. You need to keep them on track too if it gets out of hand.

    To know what to say to a customer and how to say it, you must know a good deal about the customer before you speak to him or her. This relates directly to the dream phrases we covered earlier. It’s a nightmare if you don’t convey them!

    In the next issue, we’ll address some strategies for persuasive negotiation.

    Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter and a free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time” by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115 or emailing to [email protected]. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 1-800-489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.