There is a little list of common phrases sentences and questions which unintentionally murder (or at least ‘self-harm’ any persuasive encounter.
Successful business persuaders never use them…or at least they struggle not to. The vast majority of average sellers, persuaders and managers use them all the time then wonder why they fail to persuade or why they lose their followers.
1) “We’re making you a really generous offer here.”
(Or, “We think we’re being very fair” ,or “I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very reasonable deal” etc) indeed any of these and similar stock phrases is an instant subliminal deal killer. The speaker clearly thinks that pointing out what a ‘great deal’ the customer (employee subordinate) is getting will make them think, “Wow…until Bob said that I hadn’t realized how great it was. Now I will definitely sign up!!.” Instead, from several buyer research projects, we now learn that quite the opposite feeling is generated. The customer actually thinks (or worse ‘feels’): “What did he just say?!! he’s clearly suggesting that I must be pretty stupid if I haven’t already figured out that this is a good offer. I don’t like being thought of as stupid by him; I’m not stupid….. I think I’ll leave it
2) “So…did you close it?”
Probably the commonest sales manager question to returning sales executives around the World. It is also the biggest sales executive ‘morale killer’. Getting to ‘yes’ (and the signature-on-the-line-that-is-dotted) is generally quite very tough. And, ‘sorry no…not at the moment’ and ‘we’re still thinking about it’ and ‘ we’ll let you know soon’ are ten times more likely to be what the sales person has just heard. As no seller wants to have to admit to their manager, “Sorry no.. I didn’t get it today”, they find answering the question disheartening. So Mr (or Ms) Sales Manager…what alternative uplifting question or questions could you ask next time instead of “So ..did you close it?” (OK.. manage the situation more motivationally…Don’t look at me…Think of something…. It says ‘MANAGER’ on your door…so ’Manage’)
3) “You really must improve.”
At the end of the ‘Annual Appraisal’ or ‘360’ or whatever you call your annual performance review it is quite the norm to hear SM’s or SD’s tell the subordinate that they must ‘work harder’ ‘do better’ or generally ‘improve’ their performance in one or more areas. And yet these vague and woolly terms mean absolutely nothing to the person they’re aimed at. I recently asked a team manager (in a team building seminar in Skandanavia) if they all understood their group’s current overall performance targets and their own individual goals and targets. The manager confidently told me (in front of his team) “Yes in my team they definitely do!”. I then asked the team “So DO you all clearly know your team and personal targets?” To a man they all said in unison, “No we don’t”. The art and science of permanently improving and changing people is to make sure that what you’re asking for is measurable ie ‘with numbers’. (“What gets measured gets managed” ). Exactly how much money? Exactly how many calls? Exactly what date you will you launch? Once these are agreed there is no lack of clarity and people know what is expected of them. That’s how to trigger the improvement you seek.
By the way the opposite of the quote above is equally true: “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done”
4) “To be honest with you….”
Along with the first example in this article, “To be honest with you” sets of quite the opposite thought process in the other person’s mind to the one intended. Far from changing the tone of the meeting from high level generalities into confidential specifics…it just doesn’t; it sets up doubts. The throw away phrase, “To be honest with you….” actually triggers the thought (or feeling): ‘So what he is actually saying is that he hasn’t been honest so far; well I don’t think I trust him now’ . So as trust and honesty are the two golden requirements of selling you’ve just wrecked the whole foundation on which you are endeavoring to ‘persuade’. Back to square one!!
5) “Well yes I’m sure that’s one way.. but first of all we were thinking…”
In Dale Carnegie’s 1935 magnum opus: “How To Make Friends and Influence People” (still in print today!) . He states that, in order to influence another person, you have first to make them feel good about themselves. And people feel good about themselves when you make them feel important. The problem is that most of us when they endeavour to persuade regard the words out of our own mouths as 10 times more important than anything the other person wants to say. So if the other side opens a meeting or negotiation with an idea that is either ignored or quickly shut-down by your side, how important does that make him feel? And if he doesn’t feel important how open is he going to be to hearing your idea?
Top business persuaders know that their first duty is always to hear out the other side’s idea(s) first and even discuss it (them) at length (how ever bonkers you think they are) before presenting their own idea. It is only this way that the other side might be open to hearing what you have to say. Being too early with counter proposals is a sure route to disaster ….but still most of us do it (sigh!)
6) “Don’t hesitate to call me”
Quite simply the human brain can’t hold a negative thought. If I tell you, “Don’t think of pink elephants” what do you think of? ………… quite! If I say “Don’t worry” or “Don’t get upset” then what part of those phrases remain and what words are discarded?
In exactly the same way if you sign off a sales letter or a meeting by saying “Now remember…don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions” What subliminal instruction are you sending to the other person? Exactly…now you know why they don’t call you; you told them not to.
You can add to the self-harm list yourself (e.g. at trade shows) “Can I help you?” (On the phone) “How are you doing today?” and (in a one-to-one meeting) “Sorry I really must take this phone call”. You are not immune but neither are you a special case to whom none of this applies
“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” : [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]