SalesBuzz: Sticks and Stones

Tibor Shanto, VARCoach and chief sales officer at Renbor Sales Solutions

, VARCoach and chief officer at

We all know the saying sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.  While there can be a debate about the accuracy of that saying (especially in a highly litigious society), we know for certain that is absolutely false when it comes to sales.  Words can KILL, a deal, a relationship, a career, a company.

Many discuss sales in terms of relationships, you know, people buy from people, building and enhancing a relationship.  All that is valid, but the building block to achieving this is communication, and the mortar that gives communications strength is words.  While I do understand and believe that body language accounts for some 60% of communication, intonation about 30% and words only 10%, it is still vital for sales professionals to be diligent about the words they choose and how they string those words together.  While it is a small percentage of the whole, it is also the part that can undermine the other two if ignored or more importantly not properly honed.

This is even more important when it comes to things like voice mail, e-mail, proposals, and presentations.  It surprises me how little attention is paid to this by some, and we are talking specifically about the words used, not even the irritating habit some have for abandoning all they learned about proper writing when sending e-mails to prospects.  I hate when a sales rep is “so cool” or “familiar” that they forget about punctuation, upper case letters at the start of a sentence, and more.  An e-mail to a prospect is not an IM to your NBF, it is a formal communication that is part of the sales, and sets expectations for the prospect.

This issue permeates the whole sales world, the way reps communicate with their clients, and the way sales leaders communicate with their teams.  The gaffs are not always intentional, but the impact and the effect can be devastating, or so great as to set one apart from the pack, it is up to each of us to strive and work hard to attain the latter.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece called “Question Testing”, suggesting we test things before using them in the field.  That same principal can be used for all forms of communication with prospects and clients.  There is a big difference between asking “do you do…” and “how do you…”, just explore the last SaleBuzz post for the different impacts.

The same can be said for sale leaders.  I recently attended a meeting where a VP of sales was updating the team on the company’s current status, and strategies to address their current challenges.  Now I am sure (hope) he did not mean to say this, but what came out was the following:

“Because of the way things are and sales not being where we need them to be, we have decided not to make any investments in, or do anything that could help the sales team or change anything the rest of the year.”

When I ask him later, he confirmed that what he meant was to appeal to the team to do their best despite the fact that they could not budget any new initiatives.  What was communicated due to a poor choice of words was something very different.

The reality is that with all the pressures and volume of things to get done; with all the acronyms and short form communication that abounds around us today, it is easy to slip into a relaxed approach to how we choose words in day to day communication.  But in sales those choices can hurt, so it is worth the effort to slow down, double check, and then speak (or write), it will differentiate you and help you close business.

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Tibor Shanto

Tibor Shanto is Sales Practice Director of VARCoach and VP of Sales Effectiveness at Channel Test Factory. Tibor is a recognized speaker, author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers. Called a brilliant sales tactician Tibor helps organizations increase sales through execute. Tibor is at Tibor.Shanto@SellBetter.ca, or + 1 (416) 822-7781. 

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