Category: Sales Communication


In Sales, Tonality Matters More Than You Think. Here’s…

If you’ve ever been in an argument with your significant other, you’ve probably figured out that the way you say something is often more important than what you say.

Did you ever consider that the same principle applies to sales?

It’s true; the tone of your voice might actually be jeopardizing your sales success. You may have put hundreds of hours into researching your market, learning your product, and crafting your pitch, but if you aren’t aware of what your voice conveys to your potential customers, all that effort may be for nothing.

While some scientists dispute the statistic that 93% of our communication is nonverbal, many agree that people are considerably less influenced by the actual words you use, and more influenced by the tone of your voice and your body language.

The great news is now that you’re aware of this aspect of communication, you can improve it (and your sales) in the process.

What is tonality?

Tonality refers to the way your voice sounds when you speak. Consider how many miscommunications happen because during text conversations or email exchanges. You can hear yourself say the words in your head as you type, but when the other person can’t hear the tone of your voice, your words are left up to interpretation. Most of the time, they are interpreted wrong.

While tonality can be influenced by your mood, your surroundings, and even your upbringing, you also have the opportunity to consciously control how your words come across. Think you already know how you sound? Record yourself during a mock sales pitch and then prepare to be surprised. You can also ask a few trusted friends or colleagues to listen and provide feedback. Chances are you don’t even realize how you’re coming across.

Why is tonality important in sales?

In business, the first sale is always to yourself. If you don’t believe in your product or service, why would anyone else?

The problem is, while you may have perfected the words you’ll use to sell, your tone may still betray you. Your lack of confidence will be glaring the moment you open your mouth. This can spell disaster when you’re making a sales call or pitch. After all, would you want to invest your hard-earned money in a product even the sales rep doesn’t believe works?

Of course not! Don’t expect anyone else to either.

When you approach a prospect, you are doing so because they have a problem that your product or service can fix. In this situation, you are the expert with the solution and you must present yourself in that manner.

Put your consumer hat back on for a moment. How would you feel if a salesperson sounded bored, irritated, or disinterested when you needed their help? They could be saying all the right things, but if their voice suggests otherwise, you won’t be sold on what they’re offering.

If you sound like you don’t care about their problems, you can bet they won’t care about your solutions.

Mastering your tone is an essential part of business. Once you learn to control it, you’ll be on your way to better sales.

The Eight Different Tonal Patterns

Tonality is broken up into eight different patterns. Which one you use will depend on the relationship you’ve built with the other person, where they are in the sales process, and what you hope to gain in that moment of the conversation.

Let’s take a look at each of these categories.

1. Scarcity/Urgency

This tone is used to convey the need to make a decision quickly. For example, when having a conversation with a prospect, you can express concern that they could miss out on an offer if they don’t act quickly.

2. Reasonable

You are on the same side as them. Speaking as if you’re a member of their team, or can relate to their point of view can help you build a positive relationship with the buyer.

3. Absolute Certainty

You know you can help them, and you want them to understand that as well.

4. I Care

Empathy is important in sales. Customers want to know that their problems matter to you.

5. Using a Question Your Statement Should Be Declarative

Ending your statement with a raised voice suggesting a question mark. This infers agreement.

6. Series of Three Up-Tones

When stringing three statements together, your voice will go up at the end of each.These micro-agreements can encourage others to agree with you.

7. The Presupposing Tone

You know the outcome they can expect. Using a presupposing tone is especially helpful when emphasizing the benefits the prospect can expect to have when using your product.

8. I Really Want to Know

Customers want to be heard. Using this tone allows you to communicate that you want to hear them.

How to Use the Right Tone in Your Sales Presentations

Tonality in sales isn’t about picking one tone and sticking with it throughout the conversation. This monotony will have your prospect tuning out and possibly passing out from boredom. Varying your tone throughout the conversation will keep your potential customer engaged and hanging on your every word.

Remember that you are having a conversation, not performing a monologue. While you are extremely excited about whatever it is you’re selling, your potential customer will likely be considerably less so.

You may need to start out with “I care” or “I really want to know,” two of the calmer tones, before raising the excitement level in your tone. This way, you can meet them where they are at and then slowly ramp them up to where you want them to be.

While tonality and body language are two distinct aspects of communication, they can affect one another. Consider how you feel when you are slumped over in your chair, shoulders hunched, and head forward. Chances are you feel insecure, sad, or unenthusiastic.

Guess what, even if you’re talking to a prospect on the phone your posture and your emotional state will come across in your voice. They can’t see you, but you must still be aware of your body language. Before picking up the phone, sit up straight, do a few stretches, and get ready to portray the confident expert that you are.

Some people are born with the gift of perfect tonality. They naturally know just how to talk to people to achieve their goals. For the rest of us, it will take practice. By becoming aware of your tonality, you’ve already taken the first step to improving your business. It’s a learned skill that you can practice and eventually master.


The Plain English Guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Sales

I’ve always loved hypnosis — like I’m a huge fan of those local “hypnotist” performers who do those shows where they bring up volunteers at kid’s birthdays or on cruise ships and make them do jumping jacks or pretend they’re turtles or something else along those lines.

They always fascinate me. I always wonder how they do it, and more so, I wonder why they don’t apply those powers in other contexts. Being able to hypnotize people is a pretty solid skill to have in the back pocket.

I feel like it would have a lot of practical applications beyond making people do pushups on stage at work retreats. For instance, I think salespeople would stand to gain a lot from being able to hypnotize people. But to my knowledge, they generally don’t teach those techniques at sales seminars.

Still, there are some phrases and techniques sales reps can employ to get about halfway there. Those tactics serve as the basis for a strategy known as NLP sales — a means of subtly, unconsciously swaying prospects through elements like diction and body language.

Here, we’ll learn some more about the concept of NLP sales, some NLP sales phrases, and some NLP sales techniques that you can use to add a halfway-hypnotic edge to your sales efforts.

NLP sales, as a concept, rests on the premise of quickly building meaningful relationships with prospects to sway them into buying. It leans on using specific words and actions to develop emotional connections with potential customers.

Neuro-Linguistic programming is often likened to subliminal messaging and hypnosis. While neither of those perfectly aligns with the nature of NLP, they can give you a solid picture of the concept.

Like those processes, NLP plays on prospects’ unconscious reactions to your behavior. But NLP sets itself apart from those others through its basis in harder data and better-proven research. That’s not to say that NLP is some magic, unequivocally effective means of interacting with prospects, but it’s still a useful idea with several practical applications.

NLP Sales Phrases

NLP sales phrases are sometimes referred to as “magic words” or described as “hypnotic”. While those characterizations might be exaggerated, there’s still something to be said for that kind of language’s power. These kinds of phrases are emotionally evocative. They’re compelling in their ability to capture prospects’ attention and make them feel something.

These kinds of terms are fairly similar to power words — psychologically engaging language used in copywriting to generate consumer interest. Both kinds of phrases are meant to be persuasive and slightly over-the-top.

NLP sales phrases might be positive, including words like:

  • Believe
  • Excellent
  • Thrive
  • Progress
  • Remarkable
  • Change

They can also be used to generate urgency, like:

  • Exclusive
  • Deadline
  • Final
  • Now
  • Limited

Many are used to establish trust with prospects, including:

  • Guarantee
  • Proven
  • Expert
  • Certified
  • Genuine

Obviously, that list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of NLP sales phrases that fall outside of those three buckets. But the words I just mentioned capture the essence of the concept. NLP sales phrases are strong and resonant — always said in the hopes that they’ll be compelling enough to sway prospects into taking action.

1. Being Mindful of Your Body Language

NLP sales methods extend beyond the words you use — your body has a lot of bearing on their success as well. Being mindful of your body language is key when conducting NLP sales. That kind of nonverbal communication can throw customers off just as easily as it can make them relax.

Unnecessarily imposing or overly relaxed body language can put prospects in a less-than-ideal frame of mind when they hear your pitch. If you want to get the most out of leveraging this brand of sales, make sure that you conduct your sales efforts with nonverbal cues that convey attentiveness while being nonthreatening.

2. Active Listening

Prospects are emotionally receptive to compassion and the sense they’re being heard. That’s why active listening is one of the key NLP sales techniques salespeople should understand. Be attentive to what your prospect is saying and reflect it back with compelling, sensory language that can simultaneously captivate and comfort them.

NLP phrases and techniques aren’t particularly useful if they’re not said with context and intention. You have to have a solid pulse on the conversation, understand where your prospect is coming from, and adapt your responses to remain in keeping with those thoughts and sentiments. Active listening is how all of that starts.

3. Expressing and Promoting Positivity

Positive affirmation is the name of the game when it comes to NLP sales. These kinds of efforts are rarely rooted in fear, pessimism, or negative reinforcement. So don’t try to scare or bully your prospects into buying.

That’s counterintuitive and not in keeping with the NLP methodology. When conducting NLP sales, you need to foster proactive trust — that means using language and actions that simultaneously keep things upbeat and well-directed. Be equal parts frank and reassuring to keep your prospect engaged and in high spirits.

4. Mirroring Your Prospect

One way to effectively build trust and rapport with a prospect is to subtly match and reflect their body language, mannerisms, and words. This process, known as mirroring, has been known to put prospects at ease and generate positive responses. The key here is not being too overt with this process.

If you immediately repeat your prospect’s words to them verbatim or very obviously and precisely adjust your body language to reflect theirs immediately after it changes, it’ll probably come off as strange and heavy-handed. But if you can mirror them effectively and discretely, you’ll thoroughly enhance your NLP sales efforts.

By no means are NLP sales techniques magic tricks. A lot more goes into a successful prospect interaction than your body language and diction. If your pitch isn’t fundamentally sound, all the positivity and reflective posture in the world can’t do too much for you. Still, it’s worth it to have a grasp on the tactics listed here. NLP might not be infallible, but that doesn’t mean it can’t enhance your sales efforts in general.


The Ultimate List of Words That Sell

The pen is mightier than the sword. Which is good, because you probably don’t want to threaten prospects into buying at sword-point.

As the primary “weapons” to convert prospects into customers, words are incredibly important to salespeople. How sales reps deliver their messages and converse with contacts can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a conversation. Using the wrong phrase might cast a negative shadow on the proposal, while tweaking just a few words in the pitch might induce a client to buy immediately. The underlying message is certainly critical, but the words used to deliver it are equally so.

That’s why all salespeople should become word nerds. Here’s a list of 17 power words that can help you close more deals and earn your prospects’ trust in the process.

Power Words for Sales

1. You

Selling is about your prospects — not your company. A simple way to make that clear is by using the word “you” as much as possible. Think back to your childhood. Did your parents ever tell you it was impolite to talk about yourself?

Apply that rule here. Every time you might be tempted to phrase a sentence from the perspective of your company, find a way to rework it to make your prospect the subject.

2. Value

“Customers don’t care about features and benefits,” Colleen Francis, owner of Engage Selling Solutions, writes in her book Nonstop Sales Boom. “They only care about value and achieving their objectives.”

Again, it’s about them, not you. Skip over all the amazing features your product or service contains and instead make it clear how your offering will create value for your prospect’s business.

3. And

This is a clever replacement for “but” when dealing with criticisms or objections. The word “but” signals to the prospect that you are about to utter a statement that runs counter to what they’d like to hear.

“And” by its very nature is inclusive — you seem to agree even when you’re disagreeing. Consider these two examples from Sales Coach Seamus Brown:

“I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, but let me tell you why our system costs $100,000.”

“I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, and let me tell you why our system costs $100,000.”

Brown points out that the second sentence acknowledges the prospect’s budget, while the first steamrolls over the problem and makes the buyer feel ignored. What a difference one word can make!

4. Do

Many sales experts recommend using “do” instead of “try.” For instance, instead of “I’d like to try … ” say, “What I’ll do is … “ This makes you seem competent and trustworthy — boosting your prospect’s confidence in you and your offering in the process.

5. Or

If you present a single proposal to a client, you only give them the option of accepting or rejecting. But if you present them with two or three different variations on your proposal, suddenly you’ve doubled or tripled your odds of receiving some form of a “yes.” So in negotiations don’t just ask if they’d like to sign the contract, ask if version A or version B or version C is preferable.

6. Should we … ?

Most people balk at being told what to do — especially when the person dishing out orders is not a member of their organization. With this in mind, the phrase “you should” can come off as arrogant and presumptive.

Reformulating suggestions as questions helps the prospect keep an open mind and diminishes the potential for the conversation to take a nasty turn.

7. Consensus

According to The Challenger Sale, “Widespread support for a supplier across their team is the number one thing senior decision makers look for in making a purchase decision.”

So words that express agreement among stakeholders — such as “support” or “consensus” — could have a significant impact on your primary buyer’s mindset. If you have backing from the entire team, play it up as much as possible. If you don’t, stress how you’re going to attain it.

8. Imagine

Stories stick in people’s mind more readily than straight sales messaging. So the best reps don’t only use stories in their speech, they also make sure prospects see themselves as the protagonists.

The word imagine can be helpful in this aim. Suddenly, the prospect isn’t just hearing about a better future enabled through a new product or service — they’re actually picturing themselves living it.

That makes for a shared vision — not one that exists exclusively in the salesperson’s mind. 

9. See; Show; Hear; Tackle

Okay, so this isn’t one word, but they’re all part of one family. Each of these words evokes a sense, and sensory language grabs people’s attention. Think about how the words you use relate to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic triggers.

10. Their Name

Just like you, using your prospect’s name makes them feel like they’re the focus of your attention, and your presentation is customized just for them. People also naturally pay attention better when their name is sprinkled throughout a speech.

11. Because

Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard University, conducted a study where she tested the impact of phrasing on people’s willingness to let someone cut them in line. Here are the variations she used:

  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
  • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

While only 70% agreed to let her cut in line when she used the first question, upwards of 90% let her skip when she used either the second and third phrasings.

The takeaway? When asking people to do something, always include a reason. Don’t just request that your prospect introduce you to another stakeholder or fill out a survey — explain why you’d like them to take these actions. 

12. Opportunity

Problems are bound to crop up in the sales process, but that doesn’t mean you should acknowledge them as such. The word “problem” has a negative connotation, and can make the prospect feel as if the process is difficult and unpleasant.

With this in mind, replace it with more positive words. Instead of saying “no problem,” for example, say, “it’s my pleasure.” “I understand the problem” can become “I see an opportunity to make this run more smoothly.”

13. Results

Prospects want solutions with some degree of certainty behind them. They want to know that the products or services they will deliver. That’s why describing the definitive, impressive results you can promise potential customers can carry tremendous weight when trying to woo them.

14. Premium

Talking up an offering’s prestige is an effective means of capturing a prospect’s interest, retaining it, and ultimately translating it into hard sales. People respond to the concepts of high-esteem and quality.

If you can convey those factors tastefully and convincingly with words like premium, you’ll be able to string together a compelling pitch that can have high returns.

15. Risk-Free

Sales is, in large part, the art of putting prospects at ease. That’s why words like risk-free are valuable. You need to do what you can to allay stress and skepticism.

You can get a lot of mileage out of this term with prospects — whether it be by describing a free, no-strings-attached trial or assuring them that you have full confidence in your offering.

16. Exclusive

Being a part of the in-crowd is an attractive prospect in any context — and sales is no exception. Luxury and prestige are powerful motivators, and this term is tailored to play on both.

Creating the impression that your product or service is special and only available to a select few can spur some serious interest and action from potential buyers.

17. Safe

In a similar vein as risk-free the term safe can be leveraged to put prospects at ease. It reinforces the notion that your product or service is proven, effective, and decisively able to deliver.

Safe tells prospects they’re in good hands — that you can promise they’ll see the results they’re looking for. People want solutions they can believe in. Safe assures them they can by alluding to the others already do.

Now, this list of power words for sales isn’t exhaustive, but that doesn’t make it any less useful or significant. Having a grasp on these words and how to use them in your sales efforts can pay off in spades. Language is crucial in sales, so it serves you to bolster your vocabulary with words that will elicit the right responses from prospects.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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