I’ve often spoken and written about the sequence I discovered over a decade ago: language controls discussion, discussion controls relationships, and relationships control business. The problem is that so many professional services providers don’t use language well or underestimate its impact.
Here’s a specific example of just one of the techniques I coach and teach: changing content into process.
Situation: A buyer says to you, “We have four different insurance products that need promotion, but only enough staff and budget to promote two well, and we need help as to whether that should be a whole life, term, universal, or combination line.”
Don’t debate insurance products. Instead, reply, “It sounds as if you have a critical decision to make, and that will involve clear objectives, creative alternatives, and risk evaluation, as well as all appropriate stakeholders.”
What you’ve done is taken the insurance content and adjusted it to your process strength of decision making.
A buyer says: “We are seeking to improve our already strong ability to create just-in-time product response for our priority customers, especially in the home improvement division.” Your response could be: “My experience overwhelming demonstrates that ‘raising the bar’ as you’re trying to do, should involve four types of people and possibly two others, depending on your business. Would you like to discuss them in priority order?” You’ve taken a very technical delivery issue of a certain product line and changed the discussion into your process strength, consensus decision making (or project management, or whatever).
I call these devices “the martial arts of language” because they take the momentum of the discussion and allow you to alter it in the direction you need to close the business.
Never get sucked into the client’s quicksand of content. Learn to move all routes to your strengths and frame the conversation most beneficially to you. You’ll get to your destination—signed proposals—much faster.
© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.