The salesperson’s tools are basic. You need a computer, a phone, social skills, plenty of grit, and industry know-how. But in my opinion the most important weapon of the trade is language. Everything else is secondary. If you don’t know your way around words, you won’t effectively communicate with your prospects. And if you can’t make your prospects understand the value you bring to their lives, then all the grit, hard work, and industry knowledge in the world isn’t going to save your sagging numbers.
Which is why I find it baffling when salespeople lean on the crutch of clichés. These are phrases that are used so often and so mindlessly that no one knows what they mean anymore. They’re mostly useless. But they still pollute email inboxes and voicemail with the sloppy words of salespeople who've shifted into career autopilot mode three performance reviews ago.
If you want to really help your leads understand that you have something special to offer them, you need to be purposeful in your speech. To paraphrase Dead Poets Society, “Language was invented for one reason — to woo prospects — and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”
Here are the top five clichés that aren’t helping anybody make more sales:
1) “Just Calling To Touch Base”
You usually hear the “touch base” line at the second or third contact attempt. And it’s an effective way to say “I had calling you on my to-do list today, so here I am.” It makes me feel like I’m a hospital patient watching a night nurse eyeball me and write “not dead yet” on their notepad before moving on to the next bed.
Here’s the deal: my mom is allowed to call me just because she wants to hear from me. You are not. If you call a prospect, there has to be a specific, value-adding reason for the call.
Do you have some new information that might help the prospect make a decision? Is there a deal or sales promotion you just learned about that only a fool would turn down? Great. Ring them up.
Are you just calling them in case your boss checks how many calls you made today? Then think of a better reason to reach out before you put your headset on.
2) “How Are You Today?”
I don’t know why people still open with this line in 2015. Perhaps there was a time in America when people automatically perked up at this inquiry. Even when it came from an acquaintance of a colleague hoping to sell you a copier. But today, no one actually believes that someone making a sales call or sending an email truly cares about how their day is going.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with showing compassion. In fact, flashing a little humanity can go a long way towards establishing trust with your prospects. But honestly—are you a salesperson or a therapist? Then your words should be focused on how your product can help me.
Want to have some fun? The next time you get a first contact call from a stranger that starts with “How are you today?” respond with “Miserable. My spouse left me and took everything.” You’ll get the pleasure of listening to the other person fumble over their words and try to tactfully react to your awkward confession. Plus you’ll teach them a valuable lesson in avoiding disingenuous small talk on sales calls.
3) “I Would LOVE To Meet Up”
For some reason, salespeople drop the “L” word on me faster and more frequently than a clingy and desperate ex. And I’m not the only one bothered by this.
Here’s a partial list of the things that salespeople would love to do, based on real sales emails and calls I’ve received:
● “To get in touch”
● “To schedule a call”
● “To show you what we have to offer”
● “To hear from you”
I seriously doubt that these salespeople actually feel unbridled, open-hearted adoration for giving me a sales presentation. They don’t have a framed picture of themselves transitioning powerpoint slides on their desk and glance at it whenever they need a reminder of why they’re working overtime. To say you would “love” to talk to me smacks of forced, inauthentic enthusiasm.
But even if it’s true: so what?
If I’m a prospect, I don’t care what you love. You could love hearing from me, playing with toy trains, or making necklaces out of pine needles for all I care. What I care about is what you can do for me. If you can help me understand how “scheduling a call” will eventually result in a better, easier, more profitable, and more stress-free life for me, you have my attention. Whether or not you love it is beside the point.
It’s sales 101: you need to help your leads understand why they should buy from you instead of someone else. If you don’t communicate your “Unique Selling Proposition,” they’ll happily just go with whomever is more convenient or cheaper. But you don’t convince your prospect that your product is unique just by calling it unique. That’s as pointless as calling it “mind-blowingly awesome.” You have to get more specific. Lay out what, precisely makes the product unique among all the other options on the market.
This cliché goes from useless to totally nonsensical if you use the phrase “very unique.”
The definition of unique is “being the only one of its kind.” So something is either “unique” or it isn’t. Calling something “very unique” is as grammatically incoherent as calling something the “very tallest.”
5) “A Total Solution”
All right, maybe this one is a little unfair.
If you have a product that can actually solve a prospect’s problem in all aspects, it’s fine to say it’s a “total solution.” But if you’re just saying it because you think it sounds impressive, then back up and actually think about what you’re saying.
Every single product and service is a “solution” to some problem. So calling your product a solution is like calling it a “thing.” The word is so vague, it’s basically pointless, filler information. You’re much better off getting into details. How is it a solution to which problem? The nitty gritty specifics will help convince your prospects much more than just calling it a “solution.”
Be Deliberate In Your Speech
I’m not here to judge, honestly. I’m here to help. In fact, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ll confess that I have used every single one of these lines at least once. But I realized that if I want to connect with people, there has to be real meaning and intent behind the words I choose. If you want your leads to view you as someone who can actually make their lives better, and not just a mindless spewer of clichés, I recommend that you do the same.
About the Author
Logan Strain is a Digital Content Specialist for NextGen Leads. You can also see his content in Search Engine Journal, Mashable, and other fine online publications. Follow him on Twitter if you like sales strategy, marketing, and occasional joke attempts.
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