Sales Management Digest

These Friendly Words Will Help You Win with Buyers
Anne Miller
Powerfully worded and delivered presentations are an important prelude to a successful close. Unfortunately, such seemingly innocent phrases as "I think…" or "Yes, but…" may be sabotaging your sales.

When your language puts your audience on the defensive, your presentation becomes an impromptu debate, and your prospects become your opponents. Instead of using argumentative words to push prospects away, draw them in with these friendlier and more profitable alternatives.

The Heinous "I" Trap

Your presentations should present your product or service in the most favorable light possible, but they shouldn't do it with a monologue of self-serving statements. Believe it or not, your buyer probably won't think your opinions are completely objective. When you stand to profit from singing your product's praises, accolades like the ones below – even if they're justified – are likely to leave prospects underwhelmed and unimpressed:
Salesperson: I think this system is perfect for your needs. We can have it installed by tomorrow…Not only that, but its response time is terrific. We're really proud of that.
Would you expect the prospect to be impressed by your high opinion of the product you represent? When you feel the urge to blow your own horn, restrain yourself. Capture your buyers' interest more effectively by sharing what other customers have to say about your product. Use third-party or declarative statements followed by a checking question: "Research directors in other companies really like how easy it is to use this system. What do you think?" or, "The system is really easy to use. Do you agree?" or, "We think the response time is terrific. How does that compare to what you've seen?"

In each example, the salesperson puts personal opinion aside in favor of a third party's, then ends the statement by soliciting the prospect's own opinion. When your prospects agree with your statements or offer a favorable comment, you've brought them one step closer to a positive buying decision. If they disagree or object, you have a chance to answer the objection promptly so you can retain their attention for the remainder of your presentation.

The Argument Trap

The phrases many salespeople use to answer objections set up a contest of wills between prospect and salesperson. The series of "I think…Yes, but" statements that often follows only alienates and irritates prospects. Buyers often simply stop listening and begin to search for more ways to defend their right to their own opinions:
Buyer: I don't think your program is right for my group.
Salesperson: Well, I think it is. It includes…
Buyer: Okay, but it doesn't have…
Salesperson: Yes, but I can show you…
Buyer: But I think…
Salesperson: But I think…
The bottom line? No sale. An "I think" answer to an objection only prompts your prospects to counter with their own opinions, which they certainly hold in higher regard than your own. "I think" almost invariably kicks off a verbal tug of war, which only you can lose. Instead of starting an argument you can't successfully finish, escape from the argument trap by bridging the gap between you and your customer. Substitute combative "I think…Yes, but" language with words that build camaraderie:
Buyer: I don't think your program is right for my group.
Here are some possible responses a salesperson could use:
  • Let's take a closer look at that. The program has…
  • Sometimes that seems to be so, only it isn't. Here's why…
  • Buyer ABC said the same thing, but, when he took a closer look at the content, he realized how it could really improve his bottom line. Look at this…
In each case, the salesperson expresses sympathetic understanding for the buyer's concern, then uses nonadversarial language to explain – not argue – how the concern is invalid or secondary to the product's other benefits. Prospects want to buy from someone who's on their side. When your language sets up an argument with them, they probably won't want to offer you their business even if they do like your product. Remember, you're there to help your prospect – every word you say should reassure them of that fact.

Smart salespeople know better than to alienate customers, yet their words may push prospects away despite their best intentions. Boost your credibility and rapport with buyers by impressing them with third-party recommendations and by sidestepping a heated debate over your product's suitability to your prospect's needs. With the right words, a quality product, and sharp selling skills, your presentations should end with you and your prospects speaking the universal language of good business.

The Power of Positive Speaking

To help lift your spirits and boost motivation and productivity, make some positive changes in your everyday language. In his book, Power Talking, communications expert George Walther offers these sunny alternatives to some common negative phrases:
  • Replace "I'll have to…" with "I'll be glad to…"
  • Replace "I can't…" with "I haven't yet…"
  • Replace "I should have…" with "Starting now, I will…"
  • Replace "Are you happy with…" with "How can we improve…"
  • Replace "I want to sell you…" with "I recommend that you purchase…"
  • Replace "I disagree…" with "I understand how you feel…"
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