Subtle cues can suggest authenticity or reveal deceit. The language we use in communicating with customers and prospects impacts our ability to excite them about the topic at hand and close the sale. What we say — and how we say it — matters.
Different words trigger predictable behaviors in people. Some encourage listeners to open up and let down their guard. Others create resistance and cause audiences to become defensive. Every word you choose can trigger a feeling or emotion; it is your job to carefully select your words to maximize the impact of your message.
Salespeople who understand the psychology of communication and language learn how to upgrade their vocabulary to include words and phrases that help clients develop positive associations with their brand and product. And because language is such a powerful tool, sales reps can significantly increase their close rates simply by swapping out a handful of things they normally say with high-impact vocabulary. To help you improve the tone and outcome of future client-facing scenarios, here is a list of 14 words and phrases that will encourage customers to react more favorably to your sales pitch.
Share a single, clear reason why potential customers should care about your sales pitch. Not only should your product or service have an advantage over competing offerings, it should also give your users an extra edge against their biggest rivals. Reiterate your value proposition, and support it with case studies and general performance stats.
The advantage you offer customers should be sticky. By identifying one specific thing that makes your offering special, you leave prospects with an explicit detail worth remembering as they evaluate products from other vendors.
Everyone wants to be amazed. The word tugs on our emotional strings and encourages us to take action. According to business consultant Dale Furtwengler, “It triggers memories of amazement and the joy we felt when we were amazed. It’s that joy that we want over and over again.” Your customers do not want things that are merely ‘good.’ Instead, they want something that will ‘wow’ them — and that is something they would even be willing to pay a premium for.
Of course, people hate being oversold on something and later disappointed when a product or service they purchase fails to meet their expectations. Amateur salespeople have a bad habit of overselling their goods. So, while “amazing” is a word you will want to use on sales calls or in client meetings, it is best to use it sparingly in describing things that merit excitement.
To be an effective salesperson, you need to focus on selling opportunities that help your customer better achieve their goals and, at the same time, provide insurance or protection against potential losses.
Loss aversion is a basic principle in economics and decision theory that encourages us to act in ways that allow us to maintain what we have and prioritizes that over acquiring more things. But smart sales representatives make it a point to call out ways their solutions help customers gain something AND avoid future losses. A couple sample lines you can weave into upcoming sales calls are:
- Avoid a larger bill with your current hosting provider and save $500 a month with us.
- Avoid losing your hard-earned customers when your shipments arrive damaged. Instead, use our logistics services to guarantee safe and secure delivery of all of your packages.
Some customers are easily sold on ideas or projects that help them preserve the status quo. But most will be convinced your product or service is a worthwhile investment if it guarantees to protect their current assets and grow their business.
In 2012, social psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study in which subjects preparing to use a copy machine were approached by an experimenter who asked to use the machine first, before the subject began making copies for him or herself. The experimenter made the request using one of three scripts:
- Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?
- Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?
- Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?
Using the first line, subjects complied with the request 60% of the time. With the second script, 93% responded positively. Using the third line, 94% of subjects agreed to let the experimenter make copies first. Langer concluded that the word “because” was a key differentiator in getting a stranger to comply with an explicit request.
“If a reason was presented to the subject, he or she was more likely to comply than if no reason was presented, even if the reason conveyed no information. Once compliance with the request required a modicum of effort on the subject’s part, thoughtful responding seemed to take the place of mindlessness, and the reason now seemed to matter. Under these circumstances, subjects were more likely to comply with the request based on the adequacy of the reason presented.”
The word “because” justifies sufficient motivation for a certain action. It also indicates a strong cause-and-effect relationship. In conversation, you will want to prime your audience to believe certain inputs are necessary in order to receive a specific outcome. For example, you may insist that prospects will want to license your technology because, in doing so, they will increase their workers’ overall productivity. When you associate explicit results with your product or service, buyers become convinced that your solutions will help them achieve more of their goals.
People love new things. The word “first” denotes exclusivity and grabs a listener’s attention. A first look at your newest product or service can be pretty exciting for existing and prospective customers.
In showing clients something they have not yet seen before, you introduce the element of surprise. Of course, it will still be your responsibility to delight them with an offer worthy of consideration. And if you deliver on that promise, this sort of special treatment can go a long way in helping you build a meaningful relationship with your contact. Believing that you have their best interests in mind, people will be more inclined to convert into paying customers.
People want solutions to their biggest problems. When you suggest you have a way to “fix” the issues they face, you earn a captive audience. At the end of the day, even though customers are attracted to exclusive deals and big, shiny offers, they are most loyal to businesses that fulfill their basic needs well.
In 2010, Corporate Executive Board (CEB) conducted a study surveying more than 75,000 B2C and B2B customers and found, “Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be. Yet most companies have failed to realize this and pay dearly in terms of wasted investments and lost customers.” When clients see firsthand how well you can fix their biggest problems, you will easily be able to drive new business and guarantee contract renewals.
In an article for The Next Web, entrepreneur Ali Abdullah says, “Two of the most powerful words in the English language are ‘free’ and ‘sex’. While the latter is a bit racy, the former presents an opportunity all brands should capitalize on.” In a 2012 experiment, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that they could sell 73% more hand lotion when they added a 50% volume bonus to each purchase instead of when the same bottle was sold at a 33% discount. Although the price per ounce was the same in both instances, shoppers seized the opportunity to claim the free offer with their purchase.
Free add-ons or services allow salespeople to avoid gratuitously discounting their products while adding special appeal to their offer and extending more value.
I don’t know
A single lie can lead you down a very slippery slope. High-performing salespeople do everything they can to avoid misrepresenting their products or services. By admitting, “I don’t know,” sales reps counter-intuitively build trust with potential customers. Rather than share complete guesses or facts they are uncertain about, successful salespeople take note of questions they do not have the answer to and take time after a call or meeting to research the right answer. This also eliminates the risk of having to backpedal on your words at a later point.
While saying “I don’t know” can come with a bit of shame, customers would easily prefer working with someone who is ethical and honest. Sales blogger Johnny Bravo believes the best way to admit “I don’t know” is by directly saying it, then using the client’s unanswered question as a follow-up item.
More discerning customers may bait you with a question they already know the answer to in order to see how you may respond. A blunt, “I don’t know” can earn you a new friend and open the door for further discussion.
Put prospects in an optimistic mindset by asking them to “imagine” the opportunities they may have if they purchase your goods. Customers who have a firm understanding of how they would implement your offering and apply it to their personal lives or business are more likely to agree to your finalized sales proposal. To some extent, they will already have experienced, firsthand, the benefits of working with you.
The fact is: people buy better versions of themselves. When they are able to imagine how your product or service helps them be a better person or professional, you will have them hooked.
One of the keys to sales is creating urgency without aggressively pressuring your customers for an answer. To do so, you will want to demonstrate the benefits prospects may receive if they buy your product or lease your software now. Be clear about the immediate impact you can offer to help make their purchasing decision easier.
By suggesting that “now” is the perfect time to work together, prospects won’t take weeks or months to finally say “yes.” Instead, they will make every effort to convince their peers and managers that whatever you are offering is a worthy investment.
For an easy way to incorporate “now” into your sales scripts, here are three questions leadership coach and persuasion expert Felicia Spahr recommends asking customers:
- How would this help your business if you had this now?
- What would happen if you didn’t invest today?
- What other options are available for you?
Use “save” to frame an opportunity as a clear win for prospects and existing users. Potential customers want to hear about how you can save them money, time or trouble compared to other vendors. Examples include:
- Sign up for your first month now and save 10% as an introductory offer.
- Save an hour every day when you automate the process of cleaning out junk from your inbox.
- Save customer service headaches by guaranteeing your product gets delivered within 48 hours.
Current clients with contracts up for renewal would be more responsive to a new sales proposal if you said:
- Save 50% on any additional services you purchase.
- Save 20% when you commit to an annual contract.
Generally, renewals tend to focus more on adding services and saving on bundled packages or committing to long-term contracts and locking in favorable rates.
Your users deserve a painless experience. Suggesting something is “simple” indicates that there is a small (or non-existent) learning curve and low switching costs. Most organizations hang onto legacy processes and technologies primarily because they fear the work needed to adopt new and unfamiliar systems. Successful salespeople assure their clients that switching vendors is easier than they might normally imagine.
When something is simple, people are more open to the idea of using it. In sales, it helps to emphasize which parts of your product or service are easy-to-use and simplify the way your customers conduct themselves and their business.
Your customers want to try something different to give them a leg up against the competition. Although some may be hesitant to break tradition, many others will be eager to implement unusual solutions if there is a high chance they will receive better results from their investment. This helps customers fulfill their desire to innovate too.
No one really wants to do the same things that everyone is doing. Instead, they want to discover new ways of accomplishing the same goal but in a more resource- and time-efficient manner.
An important component of successful selling is getting the customer to feel you both are on the same team. Referencing the project as a joint effort and repeating the word “we” puts prospects in a team-oriented mindset. Believing that all parties are invested in a mutually beneficial relationship, buyers begin to exhibit cooperative behavior. Other words you can use in place of “we” include: “our,” “together” and “us.”
It may seem unnatural at first to use some of these words on sales calls or in client meetings. Over time, you will see how well — or poorly — your customers react to different words, phrases or terminology. Adapt your speech and written correspondence to include language that elicits positive emotions and encourages customers to take action. Soon, you will find more prospects gravitating towards your offers and that will have a remarkable impact on your close rates.
What are some words you use while selling to trigger strong reactions from customers?
FREE EBOOK: 21 Tips Seasoned Sales Reps Won't Tell You
Sell smarter. Close more.
- The tips include:
- Recognizing buying cues
- How to handle follow up calls
- Working on your speaking voice