How to Speak the Language of Sales

March 1, 2006
The language of sales contains words and phrases capable of stirring emotion, stifling indecision, conveying agreement and convincing even your most adamant

The language of sales contains words and phrases capable of stirring emotion, stifling indecision, conveying agreement and convincing even your most adamant prospects that you have what they’re looking for.

Yes, words can be powerful. They can also be ineffective time-wasters. On a sales call, it is your word selection — good or bad — that to a large extent determines your success.

I’m not talking about the kind of salesperson whose flowery prose is seen as “too slick” or the salesperson who tries to “wow” his prospect with tech-speak. There’s no need to try to impress anyone with “foot-long” words. It’s much more important to speak in terms that your customer can easily relate to.

In learning the language of sales, you must first become aware of the words you already use. What reactions are you causing? Are they positive or negative? What facial expressions do people use when you’re speaking to them?

As you try to better understand what you should be saying, let’s expand on a few examples on what not to say:

Don’t use the word “contract.” Instead, 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 that the consumer makes the ultimate decision.

Don’t say, “I need your signature here” or “Sign here.” Try, “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.”

Don’t say “buy” or “spend.” Say “invest” or “investment.” “Buy and spend” infer “giving something up” 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.”

Don’t say “your first payment.” Say “initial investment.” Same as above. One implication is negative, the other is more positive.

Don’t say “our price” or “our discount.” Speak in terms of “your savings,” “your payback,” “your discount.” Let these dollars become “theirs.” The inference is entirely different and far more agreeable.

Don’t say, “Five thousand two hundred and eighty dollars.” Say, “Fifty-two eighty.” Dollars are too valuable, and five thousand is 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.

With this new knowledge, let’s look at two ways to say the same thing:

“To get your new system, you’ll pay us five thousand two hundred and eighty dollars.”

“Your discounted investment is just fifty two eighty.”

Which sounds less harsh? It makes a difference. A more approachable, less committal tone of language makes the message much easier to hear.

Words and language lead your prospects to draw inferences about your company and your knowledge. Their power is incalculable, the results undeniable. Use them well, and sell, sell, sell!

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. CB Hotmail readers can get a free 12-page booklet, “How to Double Your HVAC Sales in 90 Days” by calling 800/489-9099 or faxing the request on letterhead to 334/262-1115. To receive a sample copy of Adams' customer retention newsletter, call 800/489-9099 or check out for other free marketing articles and reports, including a free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time.”