On a recent flight, I read an article in the in-flight magazine in which the writer (Katherine Dudley Hoehn) talked about a lesson she learned about how to communicate better. Her “insights” matched with what I’ve been advocating for years so I thought it might be worth a second mention.
Hoehn talked about giving advice. Instead of saying, “You should…” she advocated saying, “Have you considered..?” This made sense to her intellectually. Yet she had to catch herself several times for she discovered she was slipping into her natural verbiage of “you should…” It struck me that this is what many sales people tend to do in selling. We forget how “you should” sounds like a command. Upon hearing those words, many of us want to do the exact opposite—we don’t like being told what to do.
Hoehn advocates using the words, “Have you ever considered…” This small difference makes it more likely that your suggestion is adopted. As Hoehn said, “In my enthusiasm to shout out an idea, I tend to forget that, as with other situations in life, the right choice of word matters a lot. The point is not to whom the credit goes, but that the message is delivered in such a way that action follows.”
Those are words of wisdom. The ultimate goal in selling is for action to follow—placing that order, using more of your product, etc. The better way to influence is not to issue directives but to use softening words that will make the listener feel more in control. When you ask gently, it makes it easier for the listener (customer) to comply.
It becomes easy to slip into our old bad habits—so practice using these softening words…use “might” or “could” instead of “should”. Suggest to your spouse or child…“You might want to try it this way…” You’ll see the difference…your spouse/child might actually start listening to what you say and following your advice! If it works for them, think of the effect it can have on your customers…
As Hoehn stated, your “message is delivered in such a way that action follows.” That’s really the point of communicating in the first place. How refreshing it could be for your customers to hear those words. Try it!
If you want to learn more about how choosing the right words, click here to learn about this lesson and others that are part of the Delta Points of Sales Excellence lessons.
If you want to read Hoehn’s entire article on-line, click here.