Why we should deploy words wisely when selling and especially avoid but

Words are the most powerful tool we use when selling. It is imperative that we deploy them wisely. For instance, the word but is best avoided. It irritates; ‘but’ erects walls, instead of building bridges…

Communication is the most powerful tool a salesman has. A successful sale is more a factor of how he uses words than it is how useful or not his product is. Word deployment is so powerful, copy writers live off it. There are words which work against the sale and are best avoided. For example, maybe and honestly, plus jargon such as prospect, pitch, objections and targets. Maybe does not inspire confidence. Buyers are already skeptical of salespeople and your emphatic “honestly!” just energizes the skepticism; you’d rather it shows through than is verbalized. Instead of “when you buy…” tug at the heartstrings by saying “when you  own…”. As for jargon, it’s not only unknown to the buyer, it also makes him feel like a thing, not a person. But today I want to address the most debilitating word in selling- but

This word, but…

Being a conjunction, “but” introduces a word or sentence that contradicts the preceding sentence or statement. “Chick! You look dashing in that skirt (her face instantly lights up with the compliment, until you continue), but….” And just like that you snuff out the light. Whatever you’ll say after ‘but’ will erase the compliment and take precedence. ‘But’ irritates the other party; ‘but’ erects walls instead of laying bridges; the word ‘but’ risks the sale.

Wisdom in selling exists in knowing when to use the word but, if at all you must. In fact, when handling objections strict avoidance of the word but is encouraged. So, what’s the alternative? The alternative is to keep the traffic pitch flowing. To use words that allow you to adjust your tone of what you are suggesting without risking the potential sale. And no, using ‘however’ (as some schools of thought say) isn’t the alternative. Try these instead.

Use ‘And’ instead of ‘But’        

Using and, in the place of but, is the most effective way to keep the sales interaction flowing. Grammarians will be up in arms here, insisting that ‘and’ connects and ‘but’ contrasts. And they are right-if it’s a composition we are writing. But this is selling. Conversational flow is of the essence- using positive, active sales language that inspires confidence.  And builds bridges. “Your price is high” the buyer objects.

When you say, “But the value is even higher” you may be logically right, but you are emotionally aggressive. The buyer feels his sentiments have been rubbished and he’s right. Look at the effect, “And the value is even higher” has. It allows you to explain without antagonizing or dismissing the buyers concern. Conversation flows.

Use two separate sentences

Using two separate sentences is another way to avoid annoying the buyer with the word but. “It’s true that you said your budget is 800,000 shillings. What is also true is that I’ll be doing you a disservice if I ignore the fact that it will cost you twice more in lost revenue if you do not install this system this month. 

The cost of what you will lose is much more than the extra 200,000 shillings you will sacrifice to own the system now. Here’s what I mean…” The confident and inspiring direction your second sentence took was made possible by not using but.  Had you said, “It’s true that you said your budget is 800,000 shillings, but, …” the effect would have been fundamentally different. The academician in you will say it sounds unnatural not to use but. The salesperson in you will use it and see how effective and natural it sounds.

 Let it affirm not negate

And when you must use the word but, let it be to leave the buyer pleasantly surprised. “The customization you are asking for is not customary (instead of against policy) but I’ll make an exception for you”

Words are the most powerful tools we use when selling. It is imperative that we deploy them wisely.


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