Do Words Matter?

Do Words Matter?
Debbie Horak
April 16, 2015
ipad with wordcloud on the screen

Some people call me a natural-born salesperson. And it’s true – I love sales. I think I was especially drawn to it during my tenure here at Güd Marketing because what I have to sell is so, well, good. But even a natural has to learn how to sell, and as I studied the art of selling early in my career, I found that there was, and still is, some conventional thinking about how a potential prospect experiences a sales interaction based on some basic principles of adult learning.

First, people are visual. That is, 55% of your sales presentation hinges on how you present yourself – what the other person sees when you are meeting with him or her. How you look. What you wear. This doesn’t always mean neat and clean and reasonably well dressed. It’s about understanding who you are meeting with, and looking the part.

Second, people respond to your vocal cues – how they hear you. Are you confident, friendly and enthusiastic? Do they hear in your voice that you care about them and their business, and that you know your business? Tonality accounts for 38% of the experience.

So based on those common beliefs, the actual words you say have only a 7% impact on the perception of your presentation.

But is that really accurate?

What clients ask for.

Lately, our clients have been asking for more help in one common area: messaging. That’s right, they need help with words, which are taking on greater importance as methods for making sales calls change with technology. We are exposed to hundreds of messages every day: Twitter, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, websites; all need words to give meaning and context to the visuals that initially catch our attention. And if those words aren’t meaningful, if they don’t resonate and connect with the intended audience, the communication fails.

It’s the same for sales. How you look and sound are certainly key to getting someone’s attention, but it’s the words that remain after you leave, which means you have to be sure they are carefully selected and consistently used. Here’s how I approach finding the “right” words.

1) Approach your conversation from the customer’s point of view. When telling the story of your product or service, it’s important to use words that are benefit-oriented for the customer. The story you tell is not about you – it’s about them.

2) Listen for words your customer uses. Whether it’s insider jargon or regional colloquialisms, if there are words your customer uses, chances are you should be using them too. This is not to say that you patronize. You have to use the words appropriately and effectively so your prospect feels a connection to your message.

3) Pick the best words. Words are powerful, so choose the ones that will have the most impact on the conversation you are having and the impression you want to leave. Do they communicate exactly what you are trying to say, or are there better words that you can use – more precise, more impactful, more discerning? Avoid the cheap, easy and overused claims that anyone can make. Rather, find words that are unique to your story; words that are ownable and distinguish you from the crowd.

4) Practice. This is really important because once you know the words, inside and out, you can focus on other things, like presentation and inflection. The more you focus on that “7%,” the stronger the other parts of your presentation will be.

So the next time you need to communicate with a potential client or customer, remember that your words matter. After the first impressions fade away, what you said – or perhaps worse, what you didn’t say – will leave a lasting impression that could very well be the difference between making a sale or going home empty-handed.