January 09, 2017

Choose Your Words Wisely: Sales Linguistics 101

Choosing Your Words Wisely

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but it’s not true that words will never hurt you — particularly if you’re trying to close a sale. Using the wrong language can be off-putting and costly.

Fortunately, the opposite is also true. Language choices that make you sound confident, relatable and trustworthy can seal the deal.

These 10 sales linguistics tips can make an immediate difference in your effectiveness as a salesperson.

Stay positive ... 

Positive words — like “definitely,” “certainly,” “fantastic” and “terrific” — trigger positive feelings, and it’s easier to sell to and build relationships with happy consumers. Other words found to elicit positive emotions include (but are certainly not limited to): free, incredible, profits, breakthrough, easy, exciting, winning, quality, benefit, convenient, instantly and immediately. 

Words That Sell by Richard Bayan, a thesaurus for sales and marketing professionals, contains more than 6,000 persuasive, positive words and phrases. 

These kinds of words also help build confidence. If a customer asks, “Can you do this by Friday?” you might think that replying "yes" and replying "absolutely!" mean the same thing — that the task will be completed on time.

That's technically true, but the two answers give the customer two very different levels of confidence. One says, “It’ll get done.” The other says, “It’ll get done. You can be assured of it, and I’m enthusiastic about making it happen!”

Word choice matters.

For yourself as well as the customer... 

These kind of words don’t just boost your customers' mood; they also help keep you feeling optimistic and positive. Even in the modern era of consultative sales, sales is a tough profession. I’ve been rejected more times than anyone you know — except for other folks who do what I do for a living.

I expect to be rejected.

How can you deal with that and still laugh and smile and go on to the next call? Because you feel good about yourself and know that you can do your job well.

Making a habit of using positive words can help you keep that winning attitude … and as an extension, make you more likable and successful. Positive words represent a key tool in your arsenal of persuasion skills.

... Even when the answer is "no" 

Stick with your habit of using positive language, even when you have to turn down someone’s request.

If a customer asks to have something done by next Friday, but I know that we can’t get it done, I’m still going to try to keep them feeling good about it. Instead of, “No, sorry. We can’t do that,” I would say something like, “I completely understand and would absolutely love to be able to say yes and give you that vote of confidence that it’s going to happen. Uunfortunately, I’m going to have to say that I’m unable to make good on that.”

I’ve still used a lot of positive words that will hopefully put the rejection of their request in the best possible light and leave them thinking, “Wow, he’s honest.”

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Ease customers' minds with words 

Words such as “guaranteed,” “proven” and “results” make consumers feel more confident and relaxed about their purchase, and researchers from several top business schools found that relaxed consumers estimated the value of products to be about 10% higher than others.

You never want a lead to feel uncertain or nervous about your product or service. Your job is to give them confidence every step of the way, and using the appropriate language goes a long way toward that goal. 

Make it routine

The kind of positive language choices we have been discussing so far come more instinctively to some than to others. For me, if someone asks how I’m doing, I don’t ever say that I’m “okay.” I’m always “fantastic,” “terrific” or “doing awesome.”

For me, it’s easy because it’s how actually I talk in both my personal and professional lives. Some people didn’t grow up that way and aren’t as naturally floral in their speech as I might be, but they can still learn to make word choices to improve their sales.

It may feel awkward at first, but it will become routine with practice. Besides, not everything is so delightful that it warrants a “great,” “awesome” or “wonderful.” A little positivity can go a long way.

You still want to sound genuine and not awkward or scripted. There is such a thing as being overly enthusiastic. 

Get on their level

There have been numerous studies on how mirroring a prospect’s language can increase your sales, but there are also subtle things you can do with word choice that will help you increase rapport without directly mimicking them.

You make your living talking, and every word counts, so think about how your word choices connect (or don’t connect) with who you’re talking to.

Everyone has a linguistic style that includes their vocabulary, level of formality, use (or lack of use) of slang, tone, syntax and sentence structure. He or she changes that style based on the situation and who they are talking with, and you should too (this phenomenon is called register).

You want to be yourself and sound genuine, but you also want to adjust your speech patterns slightly to be on the same level as your customer. Be relatable.

If they, for example, have an extremely informal manner, don’t try to interact with dry, business jargon. In fact, avoiding jargon and any words that might not be easily understood is a good general rule of thumb.

Confusing the customer or making them feel dumb will make them uncomfortable. 

Understand body language and match their communication style.

Give them what they want

Try to listen for words and phrases that reveal how they interact with the world. Are they visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners? You may be able to detect clues from their speech and then present information in a format that will resonate best with them.

If, for example, they use phrases like, “Do you see what I mean?” that’s an indication that they’re a visual learner. Let them take a look at the product to see its features. Phrases like, “I hear what you’re saying,” may reveal them to be an auditory learner who would be best served by a verbal explanation of the product's features and benefits.

Someone who says, “How do you feel about this?” could be a kinesthetic learner who would prefer to handle and interact with the product. Pay attention to small cues and take any opportunity you can to get on the same level as the customer and build rapport.

Use names

Another terrific way to connect and build rapport is by using everyone’s favorite word: their own name. It helps make a connection and shows respect.

It tells them that you don’t see them as a faceless something that you’re trying to get money from; you see them as a human being, a person with a name. Make a conscious decision to use your customers’ names when talking with them.

Avoid these four phrases

Are you using phrases that make you sound dishonest? You might think you’re conveying sincerity, but in reality, phrases such as, “to be honest,” “to tell you the truth,” “honestly,” and “truthfully,” make the listener think that what you previously said was not truthful.

Why are you calling attention to the fact that the statement is going to be honest? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it makes the listener wonder, “What part of what you’re telling me is not honest?”

Watch your language and avoid certain words and phrases.

Ditch the filler words

Do your best to avoid the habit of filling pauses with “um,” “ah” “erm,” “like,” “I mean,” “right,” “ya know?” and other filler words. They undermine your authority and cause the listener to question your confidence in what you’re saying.

You want to sound informed and in control, not insecure.

If you’re struggling to control these filler words — because using them can be a tough habit to break — ask a colleague to critique one of your sales calls by counting the number of "ummmms" and "ahhhhs" you pepper onto your speech, or record yourself and do a count, much like they do at Toastmasters International meetings.

The more aware you become of your bad speech habits, the better you’ll be able to control them. You’re not looking for perfection, you’re simply looking to reduce the frequency; that’s a realistic goal.

And remember … it’s okay to pause. Not every second needs to be filled with sound. A pause simply says, “I’m getting my thoughts together,” and that’s not a bad thing. Request your FREE 30-minute marketing assessment today!

Adam Weiss

Adam is a business development and sales-and-marketing expert who has spent more than two decades in the media industry. As the manager of content and advertising portfolios for local, national and international associations, he has launched tradeshow advertising venues; overseen ad sales into countless publications; launched and published digital magazines and annual directories; and developed new sources of ongoing advertising revenue for clients.