Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Selling Is a Business of Words

The right word can make a sale, and the wrong word can lose a sale. Sharp sales people are aware that certain words call for special attention.

 

Ad agency legend David Ogilvy once wrote, "Advertising is a business of words." The same can be said for selling. The right word can make a sale, and the wrong word can lose a sale.

Sharp sales people are aware that certain words call for special attention. Generally speaking, these are common expressions that seem harmless at first glance – but can communicate the wrong message or tone. Let's take a look at a few examples:

1. "Advertising cost." Cost suggests spending. When it comes to money, business people don't like to think of spending. "Investment" is a better word, because it indicates that there will be a return on their money.

Don't send the wrong signal. Talk about investing, instead of spending. After all, ROI (return on investment) has been a hot business acronym for years.

2. "Sign here." When it's time to close the sale, some prospects flinch at words that suggest an iron-clad, formal agreement. "Sign" is cold. It makes the document sound like a treaty.

It's better to say, "Just approve here," or "All we need is your autograph here." It's even stronger to follow up with a benefit statement like, "...and we'll get to work on that ad idea we've worked out."

3. “But.” This little word has big implications. Consider what happens when a sales person says, “I like your idea, BUT it might work better with a change in the headline.”

The word “but” voids the first part of the statement. It says, “Forget what I just said. Here's the bad news.” It can also make the speaker sound condescending and corrective.

It's better to substitute “and" for "but." The statement now becomes, “I like your idea, AND it might work even better with a change in the headline.” See the difference? Although only one word has changed, the statement is less confrontational.

4. Waffle words. “Kinda,” “sorta” and “basically” are puny words that have joined “you know” in the fuzzy thinker’s vocabulary.

What do these words say about a sales person? At best, they are evidence of bad communication habits. At worst, they suggest that he or she is an indecisive person who has difficulty being specific.

I laugh every time I hear an athlete say, “Basically, we were trying to keep our momentum going.” What does “basically” add to this sentence? Nothing.

5. "You'll have to..." This phrase creeps into a lot of conversations:

Advertiser: "I need help with my ad design."

Sales person: "You'll have to talk to someone in our creative department."

In reality, your advertisers don't "have to" do anything. By placing ads in your publication – or on your website – they have put their trust in you to help them grow their businesses. It's more respectful to substitute "I'll be glad to" for "You'll have to."

Advertiser: "I need help with my ad design."

Sales person: "I'll be glad to introduce you to our design team. Let's set an appointment."

It's all a matter of using the right words.