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Tennessean Column- Sunday, October 19th

Posted on: October 20

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, October 19th


Part of a true professional salesperson’s skill set is the ability to “wordsmith.” The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between a lightning bolt and a lightening bug. They sound alike but their impact is significantly different.

Let me illustrate. A man comes home and tells his wife, “Honey, when I look at your face time stands still.” Another man comes home and tells his wife, “Honey, your face would stop a clock.” You get it. There is a right and wrong way to say anything.

Over the years I have developed some answers to common selling situations. These answers have been wordsmithed over the years and I thought they might be helpful to you.

A salesperson often finds herself trying to reach a prospect who is postponing his decision. After a few contacts with no decision I have used these carefully crafted phrases:

“John, I appreciate your situation. I do not want to be a pest but I do want to be attentive. What do you feel is a reasonable time frame for your decision?”

This phrase accomplishes several things. First, it lets the prospect know you do not want him to feel like you are a pest. After several calls from you a prospect may feel like you are hassling him. Saying you just want to be attentive lets the prospect know you are putting him first. Next, by asking for a time frame for a decision, you are putting him in control of the process while getting what you want, a decision! Finally, you are asking him to be reasonable and make a decision in a reasonable period of time. I have often said the great salesperson performs communication at a higher level. This is an example of what planning each word can accomplish. Many times salespeople finds themselves hearing the prospect say, “I think getting together would be a waste of time.” After hearing this a thousand times I found an answer that works very well (nothing works 100% of the time):

“Mary, I do not want to waste your time. However, when you think about it, I cannot waste your time without wasting mine. My time is the most valuable thing I have. We will know within 10 minutes if we are wasting each other’s time.” Then ask for the meeting or the appointment

Once again, there are many subtle messages in this phrase. First, I acknowledge her concern (harmonize with the objection). Second, I let her know I am more than a salesperson — I have value and a sense of purpose. Third, I let her know that I respect her time as much as she does. There are a lot of times every week I use this phrase. You will find it useful as a sales tool.

A final tool I want to share concerns a delay in action. Maybe it is a delay in a first meeting, a follow-up meeting or a final decision. It could be a delay in documents or information you are waiting on from a prospect so you can finish your proposal. Whatever it is, here is what I say:

“Bill, no worries about the delay. However, I know you well enough that I would bet you would not leave the lights on when you leave your house for a week or the water running if you left for a day. I sincerely believe I can save you money and/or time with our service. When do you feel you will be able to stop running the water?”

Again, every word is crafted to send a subtle message and to motivate the prospect to action. First, I let the prospect know I understand the delay. I do not want him to feel bad or guilty. Next, I use an analogy we can all relate to (leaving the lights on or the water running). Then in a lighthearted, indirect way I ask for the “water to be turned off.” There is no pressure and I appeal to the prospect’s already established value system (turning the water off).

How do you learn to “wordsmith”? How do you get good at it? Well, like most skills you have to practice. You have to say it out loud. You have to say it to the prospect and see how he reacts. Frankly, you have to fail before you have success. But as Robert Browning said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”

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