The 5 Words That Kill Potential Sales

Last Updated Oct 25, 2011 8:00 AM EDT

When times are tough (and sometimes even when they're not) we tend to channel our inner Randolph Duke and try even harder to, "Sell, sell!"

So why don't our increased efforts result in increased sales? The problem often lies in words -- and the approach we take to sales as a result of those words.

Let's look at a few words you may be using to guide your approach, and the words you should replace them with:

1. Replace Specifications with Benefits. I wanted to cut up some fallen trees. I'm not a lumberjack and knew nothing about chain saws. At the first store the salesman said, "Here's an awesome saw: 50cc engine, 9000 rpm, 18" bar...." While I understood the terms I couldn't place them in context. (Is 9000 revolutions per minute good?) I went to the next store and after the salesman asked me a few simple questions he said, "This chain saw is probably your best bet: It starts reliably, has great safety features, the chain is easy to remove for sharpening or replacement... you could get a more powerful saw, but based on the size of the trees you'll be cutting, all you would get by spending more would be a heavier saw to lug around."

One salesman tried to impress me with specifications and features and in the process just made me feel stupid. The other understood my needs and solved my problem. Customers only care about specifications and features in relation to how those qualities meet their needs. Start with benefits, help the customer feel their needs will be met... and then dip into specs if they seem interested.

2. Replace Sale with Value. Cutting prices can result in higher sales... but if you don't provide a context for a price reduction, customers immediately adapt to lower prices and resist a return to "normal" levels. The key is to focus on value and not just on price. Remove one or two items from a suite of services. Or create volume discounts based on economies of scale. Or bundle related products or services or offer faster delivery schedules. Unless haggling is expected (like with cars or furniture) try not to discount a price just because the customer asks; if it's that easy, I know your price was too high to begin with. Find ways to show customers they get more.

3. Replace Learn with Show. My wife wanted to buy a fairly expensive bike. She worried about getting stranded with a flat tire, though. One salesman said, "Don't worry... once you learn how, changing a flat is easy." Another said, "I felt the same way. Come on over to the work bench. First I'll show you how, and then we'll do it together until you get the hang of it." Learn implies I have to do some homework (and who likes homework?) Show means you'll work with me and help me. Customers buy from people who help them.

4. Replace Reasons with Emotions. We like to think we're rational and logical when it comes to making purchase decisions, but if that was the case Prada, Louis Vuitton, Patek Philippe, and Ferrari would be out of business. Purchasing luxury (or even fairly nice) items is impossible to justify rationally. We may want them, but we don't need them. In fact every purchase, no matter how mundane, satisfies an emotional need -- if nothing else we want to feel good about the decision we made. Emotions play a major role in most purchase decisions, so never lose sight of how potential customers want to feel. In some cases, they may just want to feel good about doing business with you.

5. Replace I with Them. You need to make a sale. Sometimes you desperately need to make a sale. The customer doesn't care -- and shouldn't. Declining revenues, high targets, or increasing internal demands are not the customer's problem, but it's easy for those factors to creep into your approach. Desperation is the mother of pushiness, and the average customer hates a pushy salesperson. Channel that energy and make the sales process a conversation focused on the customer's needs, motivations, problems, and emotions. While you may desperately need to make a sale, only the customer can choose to buy... the process is always all about them.

And rightly so.

Related:

Flickr photo from pamiau
  • Jeff Haden On Twitter»

    >> View all articles

    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.