In sales (as in everything else), the right language often leads to the right reaction. Use the right sales words in your sales strategy and your prospects will begin to see the benefits of your product or service. Use the wrong words, and you’ll find it harder to close deals with new customers and improve your sales revenue.
There may not be exact metrics or KPIs that measure how effective your words are during the buying process, but as sales strategist and author Steve W. Martin puts it in Harvard Business Review, “Successful customer communications are the foundation of all sales.”
That’s because the sales process always starts as a linguistic engagement before it becomes a financial transaction. Good language throughout the sales cycle speeds up the transition. Bad language does the opposite. Very bad language will likely be caught by gatekeepers who’ll prevent the transition from ever happening.
Hence, to succeed in sales, sales reps need to be aware of the verbal and nonverbal language they use when speaking with customers. A big part of that is knowing which words to use and which to avoid.
The right words in the right context
The idea of using the right words sounds simple, right? In most cases, it is, but things can get confusing. For example, it’s advisable to avoid using curse words, especially at the top of the funnel (TOFU) when your potential customer is getting to know you, your company and the product or service you offer. This goes without saying when cold calling a qualified lead.
Yet, while it’s widely accepted that curse words may not make the right impression, there are foul-mouthed personalities like Gary Vaynerchuk who are able to successfully sell their brands without following this methodology.
A reminder for you and your sales team: The key, as you might expect, is context.
Here are a couple of questions you can ask when determining the selling scenario:
Which industry do you conduct business in and do you do business-to-business (B2B sales) or business-to-consumer (B2C sales)?
What is your ideal customer profile?
What are your lead qualification tactics?
Who is your prospective customer and are they the purchasing decision-maker?
How can your product or service solve the customer’s problem?
Do your existing customers have a tribal mindset and can you consider yourself part of that tribe?
What’s the best language to use in building rapport?
Which power words help influence the customer’s purchasing behavior?
What sales terms will resonate with your prospects?
What sales statements can you use for upselling and cross-selling?
Because the answers can vary according to the number of customers in your sales pipeline, a bad phrase for one specific selling scenario might be something neutral or even beneficial in another. Given the shifting market realities, the best strategy top salespeople adopt is to have:
A default selling vocabulary and a standard sales glossary, especially when it comes to pivotal sales closing phrases
A customer engagement process that is easy to access via a customer relationship management tool (CRM) and will help you discern the appropriate linguistic approach for a specific client or type of customer.
Optimize your sales vocabulary
Poor communication often causes lower conversion rates and can lead to negative business outcomes, like higher churn rates.
As an account executive, upgrading your business vocabulary helps minimize the impact of common sales pitfalls caused by poor communication. One way to do that is to avoid using words or making statements that erode interest, motivation and trust in your brand.
Consider the following attributes to apply in sales conversations as you’re building, trimming or expanding your selling vocabulary:
Avoid using acronyms, legalese, foreign words, industry jargon, unnecessary adjectives and vague explanations in your sales and marketing strategy or the materials promoting your product. Leave no room for alternative interpretations or incorrect connotations, especially when it comes to product features and benefits.
For nontechnical customers, describe the product in a way that’s easy for laymen to understand your message and see the benefits of what you’re offering. Otherwise, display your tribal tattoo and be as technical or industry-savvy as you need so that you can easily build trust among customers who “speak the talk.”
Establish trust and credibility by focusing on your customers and genuinely desiring to understand and solve their pain points. Personalization, such as using your prospect’s name in your social media or email outreach, is one way you gain trust. On the other hand, relying solely on impersonal automation for inbound or outbound lead generation campaigns or cold emails, for instance, is likely to generate the impression that you’'re out only for your client’'s wallet.
Once trust is lost, you’ll probably need to spend more time or a larger amount of money to regain it.
Many cliches in the sales industry emerged out of a predatory (think The Wolf of Wall Street) instead of a problem-solver mentality among sales professionals. Unless they truly describe your product, avoid sounding over-the-top with sales pitch descriptors like “state-of-the-art”, “cutting-edge,”, “innovative solution,”, “groundbreaking” and other sales terms that can come across like an overpromise.
Similarly, hard-sell sales closing phrases like “one-in-a-million chance”, “satisfaction guaranteed”, “limited-time offer” and “it’s now or never” should be used sparingly and thoughtfully.
Being customer-centric means that you should be mindful of your customer’s needs and treat them with respect, whether or not they’re already a paying customer.
Unless the engagement is in “tribal mode” or you’re speaking with a longtime or familiar client, avoid using slang and cuss words. As previously mentioned, swearing has its purpose but doing so all the time will eventually blunt its impact and just mark you as crass and profane.
While sales reps learn to always be closing from the start, it’s also important to be mindful of the prospect’s needs and readiness before making a follow-up phone call or asking for the sale. If you want those in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) to move closer to the sale, use the right tone and language that won’t turn potential customers away.
The best sales professionals always project confidence and certainty in their communication, whichever stage in the sales funnel their prospects or leads are in. You can do that by honing your product knowledge, industry background and customer service skills.
Customers prefer brands whose representatives exhibit a solid understanding of and full confidence in the product's benefits. Avoid using these statements:
I’m not sure.
I think, I might
Maybe, probably, perhaps
It’s good to be thorough, but it’s even better when you’re also mindful of people’s time. Whenever possible, get to the point of your message as quickly as you can.
Prepare beforehand when making a sales call and be ready with your sales pitch or closing statements to make sure you don’t waffle. Try to avoid distracting speech habits such as using filler words such as “Um”, “Like”, or “You know” too much. Use shorter and simpler words whenever possible.
Successful salespeople have a sense of urgency. When dealing with customers, convey the feeling that you’ll address their concerns within a reasonable given period. Another way to show clarity and a sense of urgency in your communication is to replace “ASAP” and “I’ll get back to you soon” with a definite date and time to show prospects that you mean business.
The attention span of your target audience has been shrinking over the years. If you can’'t deliver what they want immediately, manage their expectations by setting a specific time frame.
Nothing saps customer enthusiasm and disrupts the buyer’s journey more than a heavy dose of pessimism. While being truthful is important, there are ways to communicate things that the customer may not want, but needs to hear, such as the ever-dreaded pricing conversation.
Think twice before dismissing your potential customer’s requests or concerns and instead take time to answer your prospect’s objections and questions. Give reassurance by providing a factual and objective rationale about the situation and what you’re doing to help them stay within their budget limitations, for example.
Leveraging existing customer data to prove your product aligns with your prospect’s needs, is a great way to move them to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) and ultimately close more deals.
Use the word “you” at strategic points during the client engagement to emphasize your focus. Be sure to express genuine appreciation with gestures to say “thank you” whenever warranted. Convey importance without being patronizing by mentioning your customers’ names at appropriate times.
Sales success entails saying the right things and communicating your value proposition effectively at the right time. Sales words have the power to elicit emotional responses, which can compel prospects to act and sign on the dotted line.
While the language of selling may vary across industries and markets, effective sales communication largely depends on a single factor: your customer. Getting to know your potential buyers also means learning how they talk and expressing what their key concerns are in language that’s familiar to them. This way, you can use sales words and sales terms that they understand, and be one step closer to making them consider your brand a viable solution to their problems.