Whether we realize it or not, we’re all multilingual. We can choose to speak the language of “Me” by focusing on our qualifications, company history, and partner backgrounds. We can choose to speak the language of information by focusing on technical details, feature sets and options. Or, we can choose to speak the language of influence by focusing on the needs of the prospect. At initial meetings, prospects will only have a few moments to size you up. After looking at the way you’re dressed, the next thing they’ll judge you by is what you say. Prospects will use your interactions as a barometer of what they can expect from you. Consequently, your language choices take on a significance that transcends the moment. Even interactions that occur much later will be filtered through that initial perception. The best way to insure your interactions are positive is to speak the language of influence. Here are five ways to help you begin.
Don’t let educating get confused with patronizing. When you need to correct a misperception or misinformation, avoid using phrases such as “what you don’t know is,” or “you don’t understand.” It’s the same as saying “I’m smarter than you.” Show some humility when you need to educate prospects. Give them the benefit of the doubt by using phrases such as “We’ve found that people usually ask about this aspect of the policy, but please stop me if you’re already learned about it.” Remember too, you can explain a complex process or idea in different ways. You could explain it by defining it, showing how it functions, what causes it or some combination. Solicit feedback to see if your prospect expresses a preference for one method or another.
Focus on what you achieve rather than what you do. Instead of describing the activity you’re engaged in, describe the results you get for clients. People care very little about what you do, but they care passionately what you can do for them. Which of these two statements would appeal more to you? “I sell health insurance.” “I show small business owners how to maximize the return on their healthcare dollars.” You should be able to describe in a single sentence, the results you get for your target market.
Keep jargon to a minimum. Jargon can serve as an economical way of communicating when speaking to those inside your profession. It’s often your default language for describing your products and services. Remember that your prospect is likely to be from outside your own profession and thus unfamiliar with terms you use on a daily basis. Keep explanations simple and make certain prospects understand any industry standard acronyms or abbreviations.
Stand out instead of blending in. Have you ever questioned a policy or procedure only to be told “Everybody does it that way”? Rather than an explanation, such a phrase usually only reinforces the inflexibility of the system. If everybody does it that way because it’s an industry standard, explain the benefits of the standard. If everybody does it that way simply because they can get away with it, find a new product to sell.
Recognize the difference between what you say and what people hear. There’s often a tremendous disconnect between what you say and what people hear. This is a direct result of being message-centered instead of prospect centered. Here are some examples. Said: Someone in our office should have informed you about that. Heard: Someone in our office isn’t doing his job. Said: I hoped to have more brochures for our meeting, but didn’t have time to collect them. Heard: I’m not prepared. Said: I had a difficult time finding your house. Heard: You gave very poor directions. Said: I couldn’t return your call right away because I’ve been so busy. Heard: You’re not important to me.
The key to speaking the language of influence is to shift your orientation towards your prospect. Think about their needs, their level of familiarity with your product, their financial literacy and their unique situation. A willingness to put yourself in their shoes will often put their account in your book of business.
©2010 Peak Communication Performance. Excerpted from Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business by Leveraging Your Expertise
, available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Download the first chapter at www.RainMakingPresentations.com. Affluent’s Presentation Expert, Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D., shows professionals how to design, develop and deliver effective presentations. When you book him to show your organization how to create more persuasive presentations, you’ll discover why better communication means more business. Please contact him at Sommerville@RainMakingPresentations.com.