We all tend to change how we speak depending upon whom we happen to be addressing. Greeting your wife, you say something like, “Hi, honey.” To your friends, it might be, “Wassup, dudes?” And to your kids, “Put that down!”
The words we use in various situations do a lot to express our mental state, whether it be affectionate, jovial, or irritated. When it comes to business, however, we should strive to come off as confident, concise, and highly communicative. To achieve this, we need only to pick and choose our words carefully.
What to Take into Consideration
The first thing you need to learn is how to determine which words are right for the circumstance. Always:
• Take the time to listen. Don’t try to outsell yourself by rambling on endlessly. Keep your points clear, and let the other guy do most of the talking. By allowing yourself to listen to the customer, you can get a lot of clues as to various word choices. Does he speak formally or casually? Does he use certain repetitions or word stresses?
• Ask questions. This keeps the other person engaged while indicating that you care about his needs. It also allows you to get a better grasp on the person’s intentions.
• Mimic certain word choices. For example, does the prospective customer use the word “value” or “cheap”? Words like these can be used interchangeably, depending on the situation (think of Southwest Airlines or Kia). If a customer uses the word “value,” explain the reasons why your product or service is of great value. On the other hand, someone else might be attracted to your product because it’s cheap. Pay attention to little details.
• Know which words to avoid. Try not to use too many technical terms, long words, or jargon. You might think you come off as an expert, but the other person might feel like he’s being talked down to if he doesn’t understand.
How Does This Help?
The ability to communicate clearly is one of the most important tools a person can have in order to succeed in business. It allows interactions to be efficient, and it demonstrates that you understand the other person’s needs and have a clear grasp of the business at hand.
For example, to prove that you have thought through a particular aspect of what you’re working on, try to use specific phrases, such as, “I will increase sales using Google AdWords’ pay-per-click program” rather than “I will increase sales using online marketing.” In this manner, you can communicate what you’re talking about with precision while also highlighting your competence.
The importance of employing a team that understands how to choose words properly can also play a huge role in the overall success of your company. Even if most of your team rarely connects with clients directly, everyone should have a cohesive understanding of how he should present your business in conversation.
Taking word choice into consideration has helped my own company in a variety of practical ways. In order to build a company and a team that excels at the subtleties of communication, you should be:
• Paying attention to details. On the seemingly less significant side of things, altering a couple of words on a webpage can generate a huge response. On one of our most important pages, there used to be a banner that read “Register Here,” which sounded like it was asking you to sign up for the draft. After a bit of split testing, we changed it to “Gain Instant Access Here,” which feels more like winning a door prize.
• Providing the right associations. When it comes to hosting sales and promotions, you should consider underscoring the “value” of the service and not the fact that the price is “cheap.” Even though the price may initially gain the customer’s interest, he won’t buy unless he thinks the value outweighs the cost. Provide people with the mental understanding that the price is “cheap” while successfully avoiding the use of the word.
• Making a big impression. When I was still gathering investors for our business, I would often try to explain our “potential” when speaking to different investment banks. Eventually, it struck me that “scale” was a more appropriate term. The money men wanted to know that their X investment would lead to Y returns, with more X resulting in more Y — a scale, in other words. My business has “scale,” while my 8-year-old niece has “potential.”
Let’s Make Everything Clear
Success in business is gained through efficiency, clarity of vision, and — more often than some people realize — a bit of tricky wordplay. The ability to communicate with precision will almost always come down to finding the right thing to say. Take the time to pay attention to your words, and listen carefully to the words of others. You can leave the misunderstandings at home.