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Choose Your Words Carefully


In discussion at conference room table
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

People like to feel comfortable. And they usually feel comfortable around other people who are like them. So it follows that, as a salesperson who is trying to build rapport with prospects, you'll want to match your word choice to your prospects.

Choosing your words wisely is an important component of making your prospects feel comfortable with you. That means avoiding sales or industry jargon unless your prospect has already used that phrase or otherwise demonstrated that they prefer a highly technical level of conversation.

If you use a phrase your prospect doesn't understand, you will most definitely make them uncomfortable. No one likes to say “What does that word mean?” to someone they're considering doing business with. And if your prospect says nothing, then they'll feel uncomfortable and also won't understand what you're saying – a recipe for disaster.

An even worse situation occurs when you use a highly technical word that YOU are not 100% familiar with. If you misuse an industry word and your prospect realizes that fact, their trust in you and your level of expertise goes out the window.

When you design your standard sales presentation, keep the language at a level that you're sure will make your prospects comfortable. If it becomes clear during a presentation that your prospect is more technically minded, you can always raise the technical level of your pitch... but only use words that you are completely familiar with.

If the prospect uses a technical word or phrase and you don't know what it means, you may feel embarrassed about admitting your ignorance to the prospect. Whether to speak up or remain silent will depend upon the situation.

If you feel you've already developed a pretty good rapport with the prospect, go ahead and ask. You can actually make the prospect feel better about you because they enjoy having the chance to teach you something (and thus feel smarter). If you're having a tough time creating a connection with the prospect, you might be better off not saying anything. But in that case, write the word or phrase down and look it up later or ask a colleague what it means. Then you won't have to worry about running into the exact same situation in another meeting.

Aside from jargon, there are a few words it's better to avoid in a sales presentation. As a rule, stay away from words and phrases that might bring up negative feelings in your prospect. For example, using the word “contract” might make your prospect feel restricted or conjure images of being trapped with your company, so instead try to say “agreement,” which has a much more positive association.

Of course, sometimes the situation will require you to say “contract.” In that case, go ahead and say it. You'll only make your prospect more uncomfortable if you contort your language all around just to avoid a relatively harmless phrase.

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