It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

One of my mentors always told me that the definition of a good sales person is somebody who can tell you to go straight to hell and make you think it’s a great idea.  He was right.  We get so wrapped up with what we are trying to say to somebody, we don’t stop to think about how we are saying it.  Something said the right way can have incredible results.  Something said the wrong way can have equally catastrophic ones.

This is nothing new, and it goes along with all of the other articles I write.  I talk about not practicing the definition of insanity, or checking your ego when you speak to somebody.  I also talk about follow-up all the time.  And I can tell you that you can do all of the follow-up you want, and you can keep adapting to an ever-changing environment, but if you deliver the wrong message, because you didn’t present it correctly, it really doesn’t matter what the message was.

Taste Your Words

Currently I manage a small team in the western part of America.  My team and I are all remote.  We depend on being able to communicate by phone, email, and text.  I can tell you how badly an email can get misinterpreted.  There is no way to put very much emotion in an email or text, so a lot of times when I write something to one of my teammates, I have to depend on them knowing my personality well enough to not get offended by something I write.  Conversely, I have to know them well enough to do the same.  Numerous times I have received an email from somebody I didn’t know very well and completely misinterpreted the message because I couldn’t see the body language or hear the voice inflections.  I guarantee you have made the same mistake of misinterpreting what an email or text message said from somebody you don’t know well.  So imagine how a customer who doesn’t know you very well may perceive your email or text message?

I always like to use stories, because they’re real-life examples of what we, as sales people are doing right or wrong.  I received a text last week from a sales person about a vehicle I had spoken to him about.  He wrote 4 sentences, each one ended with an exclamation mark.  I’m not really sure how I was supposed to handle that text, much less respond.  Was he yelling at me?  What was he really trying to say?  I guess he really wanted me to know the car was still at port.  I also guess I’ll never know, because I didn’t respond.

When emailing people, I always say it’s best to write out the email and wait a couple of minutes.  Then re-read the entire email (you should be doing this anyway for grammar and punctuation mistakes).  Now that you’ve re-read it, how would you respond to the email you are about to send?  If you have any doubt that the person receiving it would take it any other way than the way you intended, rewrite it.

I still don't understand

It’s easy to see how we can say something the wrong way in an email or a text, but what about when we do this in-person?  It happens all the time.  I make the mistake of doing it with my team sometimes and they do the same to me.  We don’t mean to, but it happens.  We all have goals to hit, both personally and professionally.  If I was speaking to you and said to you, if you don’t hit your numbers this month, you’re going to be fired.  Does that sound like a message you would like to hear?  What about if I said, I know you’ve been working your butt off and I cannot tell you how much I and the company appreciate your hard work.  However, in the current climate we are in, the company is telling me that if we don’t hit our goals they are going to have to make some changes.  We have to make sure you hit your goal this month and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you.  Does that message sound better?  I am still telling you the exact same thing.  Ultimately, if you don’t hit your goal this month you will be terminated.  However, I’ve made sure to let you know this is a “we” thing and not a “you” thing.  Again, it’s all about presentation.

We as sales people get so wrapped up in our needs and wanting to close the customer, a lot of times we forget that if we just toned down our message we would get better results.  Believe me, I’m one of the most guilty about this.  I always cared about my customers, but I also would do one of two things constantly.  I would either get too direct with my message and tick them off, or I would talk myself right out of the sell.  Neither of those were the outcomes I wanted.

So next time you’re ticked off at a customer for asking so many questions, or you have an employee or teammate that is driving you crazy, think before you react.  How would you like to be talked to?  If it was your hard-earned money you were about to spend, don’t you think you might want to ask a few more questions?  If you were struggling to hit your numbers, would you react better to threats or to someone who made you feel like you were in it together?

I would love to hear from the readers and what you think.  Am I right?  Or is it better to just tell someone as direct as possible?  As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Thank you.


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