The activity that we call sales is a series of conversations. The first conversation leads to the second, but only if the prospect believes that 1) your first conversation created enough value to make it worth their while and 2) your next conversation promises more of the same. Being fluent in the different conversations is what allows you to master your craft, serve your prospective clients, and create and win deals.
The Three Variables to Improve Your Fluency
Whether you call them scripts, language choices, or talk tracks (my preference, as it doesn't suggest that one my sound scripted), choosing the right words is critical for developing fluency in the sales conversation. It’s simply not true that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” at least when it comes to earning commitments. Words provide your primary tool kit, so improving them is the first step to improving your fluency. Here are three variables to track as you sharpen this key competency.
1. The Words You Use
The words you use are critical to creating and winning opportunities. Naturally, some word choices and phrase design work better than others, just like some conversations are more effective than others. Those who make poor word choices (or who are forced to use outdated scripts) don't do as well as those who make better choices.
The salesperson who calls their prospective client and asks "is now a good time" or "is now a bad time," or even worse, "can I have twenty seconds of your time," is using poor language, especially when it comes to persuading busy decision-makers. All of these old hacks have outlived their usefulness, portraying you as a washed-up jester. After providing your name and your company, you would do better to say something like, "I am calling you to ask you for a twenty-five-minute meeting to share with you our quarterly executive briefing, including the four trends and forces that we see causing the greatest challenges over the next six months. What does your schedule look like Thursday afternoon?" This approach identifies you as a serious person, one who may be worth the gift of your contact’s time.
In a discovery call, asking your contact "what do you wish your current supplier did better" is another worn-out move. Its directness often causes the client to respond that their current partner is doing a good job, even when that isn't true, because they want to defend their supplier—and their decision to buy from them. There are plenty of other ways to work on compelling your client to change. Here, you want to use language that lets your client talk about any problems that they might be experiencing instead of defending their vendor. Try something like this: "Some of the challenges that seem to be making it more difficult for our clients are a lack of available containers, too few drivers available, and the high price of bringing containers in from overseas. How are these obstacles showing up in your world?"
2. The Value of Your Conversation
Words matter a great deal, but they work best when you use them to build valuable conversations. Low-value conversations subtract from your sales effectiveness, while higher-value conversations indicate fluency. Many of the sales scripts that salespeople have been taught or trained to use are not valuable for the prospective clients, including scripts about the salesperson's company, their products or services, or their existing clients. Any conversation that starts with "our company was founded in 1967" is not a good use of the gift of your prospective client's time. Better conversations are those that enable your client to do something they could not have done without your insights and advice.
To introduce that value, try asking your client, "Can I share with some of the factors that we see as critical to creating the better results you need, and discuss how you might weight them based on what you already have in place?" Conversations that enable decision-makers and shapers to make good decisions are more valuable than talk tracks that try to position you and your company as the right choice for your client: you have to prove both your worth and your fit through the conversation.
3. Your Confidence and Your Demeanor
The second you start speaking your client starts judging you, for good or for ill. If you start to hedge a statement or a question, you expose a lack of confidence—and sales is a profession that requires you to create certainty where there is massive uncertainty. Don’t ever say, "I was hoping to maybe get some time on your calendar." Any doubt you have about deserving the next commitment from your client is going to be amplified if you sound like you don’t even deserve their time.
A strong and confident talk track banishes those doubts: "I promise you that this is worth your time and attention. I won't waste one minute of your time, and I will provide you with our slide deck so you can share it with your team. What works for you this week?"
We underestimate how important confidence is to fluency. A salesforce armed with proven, effective talk tracks is one that is going to be more confident and more competent, exuding a fluency that allows them to create and win new opportunities by creating value and compelling their prospective clients to move forward.