Why Words Matter More than Ever in Business to Business Sales

listenGuest blogger Linda Richardson busts the body language myth and explains why your words help seal the deal.

You’ve heard the saying: “People buy with emotion and justify with fact.” That’s why the words you use matter and why business to business sales “pitches” fall flat.

Unless you can tap into what’s really going on with your customers and prospects—unless they feel that working with you will help solve their problems—you’ll never get the deal.

That’s why I asked Linda Richardson for permission to share her fantastic blog post, “Body Language Myth Busted? A Lesson from Google.” She tells a remarkable story about how a software engineer at Google almost failed at selling his idea … until he changed his words.

The lesson for business to business sales leaders is loud and clear: Choose your words carefully.

Here’s what Linda has to say on the matter:

“Have you heard the adage that it is not what you say, but how you say it? This thinking was advanced by a 1967 study around communication. It held that how you communicate is 7 percent the words you choose, 38 percent tone of voice, and 55 percent body language.

This study had a major impact on communication training. But it had nothing to do with how people process information. It focused on what was conveyed in a single word, which is much different from processing.

Modern brain studies show communication is much more complicated than this study suggested. It turns out words—not non-verbal cues—dominate. Listeners process words not only for content, but for the feelings those words evoke.

Of course, body language and tone remain powerful elements in face-to-face communication. But because so much communication now takes place online, where body language and tone don’t really play a role, the specific words you choose—not just the relevant ideas you present—are the major factor in success or failure. This is true whether you’re online, on the phone, or having an in-person conversation.

For example, Chade-Meng Tan’s story illustrates that the specific words you choose affects how your customers react and how willing they are to make a change.

Chade-Meng Tan is a speaker and author, and the 107th software engineer hired by Google. When the company went public, Google let early hires like Meng choose what they wanted to do, provided it advanced Google’s mission.

Meng had a very difficult time early in his life, and meditation helped him through it. So, he believed integrating meditation into business would be meaningful at Google. He thought it would help people be more creative and enable them to put their whole selves into their work.

But when he posted information about his new meditation program, not one person at Google signed up.

Not knowing what to do, he contacted meditation expert Mirabui Bush for help understanding why there had been no interest and what he could do about it.

Ms. Bush did some research and learned that Google employees were mostly very young and very smart, hailing from schools like MIT and Stanford. Because they had been in front of screens their entire lives, she suggested offering the same course content but framing it differently to speak to this audience.

Taking her advice, Meng searched for the right language to promote his program, gained senior support, and reframed the course with a new name. Four hours after he reposted, 140 Google team members signed up for ‘Search Inside Yourself.’ To date, the number of participants exceeds 2,000 globally! And Meng’s title at Google is ‘Jolly Good Fellow.’

What’s the lesson here for salespeople? There are many.

It may be time to put a long-standing myth about the dominance of body language to bed. Find a champion in your organization and your customer’s organization. Seek expertise when you hit a wall. Change a perspective from how you see something to how the customer can relate to it. Frame information using specific, tightly focused language.

To help you do this, profile your customer and find language the customer relates to. For example, a friend of mine was recently struggling to rename his business. So, we put Ms. Bush’s thinking to work by looking at his customers, who are mostly tourists. They are educated, readers, art lovers, offbeat, international, and an average age of 40. His shop is located sub-street level and kind of an emporium. We came up with the name ‘The Underground Collector.’ When he changed his perspective, he moved from his passions to his customers, and that made a big difference.

Search for and listen to your customers. Understand their world and the language they can identify with. That’s how you capture their interest so you can influence and sell to them.

Your customers hear what you say in two ways: how they comprehend it (be clear) and how they feel about it (have empathy). I assume most customers understand what you say. So, take a hard look at the key words you use in your proposals, emails, voice mails, and conversations. And ask yourself, ‘How will the way I am articulating this make my customer feel?’”

(Note: This week’s guest post is a slightly edited version of Linda’s original blog post, which appeared on LindaRichardson.com.)

linda_richardsonAbout the Author

Linda Richardson is the founder and executive chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales training business. She is a prolific writer, and latest book is Changing the Sales Conversation (McGraw-Hill, 2014). Linda consults with sales leaders and sales teams on sales strategy and sales performance. A recognized leader in the industry, she won the coveted Stevie Award for “Lifetime Achievement in Sales Excellence” in 2006 and in 2007. She was also identified by Training Industry, Inc., as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals.” She teaches sales and sales coaching at the Wharton School University of Pennsylvania. Visit www.lindarichardson.com to learn more.

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