Word choice matters in sales. A view from the buy side.
After 20 years on the sell side, in both sales and marketing, I have spent the last couple of years on the buy side. As such, I have sat through countless vendor presentations and agency pitches. It is amazing to me how many salespeople, even the better ones, make fairly fundamental mistakes in word choices when they are trying to describe scenarios that relate to your business during sales presentations.
I learned long ago that the key to developing good messaging is listening to the market. Listen to customers and prospects closely. They will not only outline the problem that needs solving – thereby helping to define a feature set – they will also unconsciously “write copy” for you. Listen to enough people and you will hear the patterns of speech for how THEY would describe your product, which coincidentally is the same set of words that will resonate best with them when you sell your solution.
So back to those sales people. The same principles apply to spoken sales language as do to written marketing copy. If you listen first and pick up on the way a prospect or customer describes her business and then use her vocabulary when you speak, your words will resonate better with her. Does she call her distributors “agents”? Don’t call them brokers. Does she “sell direct” to consumers? Don’t call that part of her business “retail”.
Even more important than the words is to make sure you demonstrate a knowledge of the customer’s business. Don’t talk about selling direct if the business is purely based on a distribution network. This is basic homework. Read the company’s website before the meeting. Take note of the things that show how the organization does business and the words they use to describe it and their products. Though they may not even know it, they will appreciate that you speak their language and that they don’t have to correct your incorrect assumptions. Start the meeting by asking them to talk about their problem before you pitch your solution. Pay close attention to the words they use while speaking and use the same vocabulary when you finally do present your solution. It will resonate better with them.
It’s not rocket surgery… Why do so few salespeople get this right?
Image credit: Dullhunk