Debbie Barrow, Managing Director of Virada Training has spent years studying customer behaviour and creating new approaches to sell to today’s savvy and independent customers.
Her research shows that choosing the right words to capture the attention and imagination of your customer is one of the key factors.
Today’s information-overloaded customers
Customers today have to digest more information than ever before. They can find out anything, anywhere, at any time about products. Choice is endless and decision-making can be more complex.
To help manage the sheer amount of information they’re processing and the speed at which it happens, customers ‘filter’ and ‘scan’ messages they read or hear. Their attention is often minimized.
So how is it possible to get the attention of today’s information-overloaded customers when you interact with them on the phone, by email, in the store or in their home?
Customer behaviour: words that evoke positive emotions
Each of the thousands of words stored in our subconscious has meaning for us. One word is often linked back to situations where we’ve heard that word before. It then has an association, either positive or negative.
The airline industry understands the powerful effect of each word on a passenger’s emotions. For example, the pilot doesn’t use words such as: ‘We’ll try to get to 33,000 feet’, or ‘It’s the co-pilot’s first flight, so hopefully we’ll get there in one piece”.
Every word used by the airline crew is carefully considered. This is because if there is just one negative word used, THAT is the word that passengers may dwell on. The crew are trained to use words that evoke feelings of confidence and reassurance.
So use words that will help the customer to feel the positive emotions that need to be in place for them to make a series of decisions. For example, when you’re selling a product, use phrases such as ‘giving you the reassurance that…’, ‘providing you with the peace of mind that…’, ‘so you can be confident that…’
Words that work and words that don’t
Some words create doubt. For example, I hope, I’ll try, I’m afraid, not sure, can’t be certain, might be, should be, probably, maybe, if, just, but, the problem is, all I can do, might be, possibly, try to, unfortunately, but, I’d have to, you’d have to, it can’t, it won’t.
Words that convey certainty are: I CAN do, WILL do, I’ll find out, right away, immediately.
So rather than say: Unfortunately the product won’t be with us for 6 weeks, you can say: We’ll be able to get that for you in 6 weeks.
Using credible and ‘you focused’ words
Describing a product as fantastic, great, brilliant, amazing or super, comes across as hard-sell. Whilst superlatives are fine, don’t overdo them.
Add substance to your vocabulary and personalise benefits. For example: Easier for you, quicker for you, better for you because…., as it’s important for you…., as you mentioned….
You mentioned that one of the most important things is that when you……. Or, look at these designs. I’m interested to know which you think give the right look.
The word ‘YOU’ captures the customers attention. It makes it easy for the customer to put what you’re saying into their context. The words ‘you mentioned that’ followed by the summarising of what the customer said earlier, also showed you’d listened. The use of the words ‘I’m interested to know which you think’ shows the customer that you really care about helping them to make the right choice.
Words that access the subconscious
It’s useful to help today’s busy customers to access their subconscious.
For example, consider the value of asking the customer: What drew you to contacting us? The words ‘drew you to’ reinforces to the customer that they were ‘drawn’ to your business or your product.
Here are some examples of questions that help a customer to access their imagination: What do you imagine is the most important aspect for you? If the partner needs to have an opinion, you could ask: ‘If your partner was here looking at this design, what do you imagine he’d say?
This helps the customer to visualise the context.
Words to use in discussions about the price
When qualifying, it’s best to avoid the question: What’s your budget? The word budget sounds fixed and final. However, remember that when it comes to buying products, we often spend more than we planned to. A much better question is ‘What sort of price-range are you’re looking at, at the moment?’ This promotes flexibility and movement.
Here are some examples of sentences to avoid during price presentations: It’s a lot more expensive at £xx I know it’s a lot of money. The only difference is that it’s a different make; it’s basically the same as (the other make). I know you only wanted to spend £xx.
Customer behaviour today is often based on price and have done a lot more research about price than ever before. However, don’t let that affect your confidence. Keep your cool, present the value of your products and services using the best words and remember to personalise your presentation for the specific customer.
Of course it’s not just WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it, so when you’re presenting, listen to yourself. Do you sound confident, enthused and positive?
Language of influence
So remember that the dialogue you use when you’re interacting with a customer is a choice. Guide customer behaviour with words that bring reassurance and engage the attention of today’s overwhelmed customers. Do this with authenticity and the customer will find it much easier to make the decision about the best design or product.
The great thing is that when you hear yourself using language of influence, this will have a positive effect on you too.
Debbie is Managing Director of Virada Training and a customer behaviour expert. Virada Training is an award-winning provider of sales, service, management and multicultural training.