A study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests describing a request as “small, “quick,” or “short” can have a big impact. When researchers changed the description of a $5 shipping charge from a “$5 fee” to a “small $5 fee,” participants were 20% more likely to say they’d pay it.
Why? The researchers theorize people assumed the $5 fee was relatively small compared to other shipping fees. In other words, one word changes the perceived size of a request. Salespeople can take advantage of this effect by adding the word “quick” or “brief” to their asks.
Here a couple examples to give you an idea:
“If this is a priority, I can also get on a quick five-minute call.”
“Are you available for a brief half-hour call to see if there’s a fit?”
2) “Who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why”
Start a question with any of these six words, and it’s guaranteed to be an open-ended one. The buyer’s mental gears will start turning as they read -- and hopefully, the question will stay on their mind even after they’ve closed the email.
Evan Ratliff, CEO and co-founder of Atavist, points out that these questions have a “high probability of thoughtful responses, whereas those that begin with ‘would,’ ‘should,’ ‘is,’ ‘are,’ and ‘do you think’ can limit your answers.”
When the stranger simply asked if they could jump ahead, they were successful 60% of the time. Adding “because I’m in a rush” caused their success rate to rise to 94%.
Here’s how a rep might leverage the “because” effect:
Before: “I’m writing an article about hiring your first HR employee. Would you be interested in weighing in?”
After: “I’m writing an article about hiring your first HR employee. Because you’ve scaled two startups, would you be interested in weighing in?”
Instead of asking to “speak” with or “share some insights” with prospects, reps should simply ask to “talk.” This swap sounds friendlier and less salesy.
“Talk” also implies a back-and-forth dialogue. Many buyers expect salespeople to deliver a monologue about their product, so this phrasing can make on-the-fence prospects more receptive to a conversation.
5) “Lose,” “stall,” “damage,” and so on
While reps should never overstate buyers’ problems or invent one completely, mentioning the consequences of a real issue can compel action. It’s important to end with a suggestion or offer to help -- after all, simply pointing out a problem doesn’t help anyone.
Here’s an example:
“Your internship program looks awesome. However, I noticed that you don’t pay your interns or offer college credit, making you vulnerable to a lawsuit. Would you be interested in a quick consultation on the new standards?”
Salespeople can show their prospects it’s all about them by using the second person. This technique primes prospects to imagine life with your product, motivating them to respond.
Every time reps are tempted to reference themselves, they should rework the sentence so it uses “you” instead.
Before: “I’d love to share the report with you.”
After: “Would you be interested in seeing the report?”
Instead of referring to their prospect’s pain points as “problems” or “issues,” reps should call them “challenges.” It might seem like a subtle distinction, but the word “challenges” sounds more optimistic and implies prospects have the power to overcome what they’re facing.
Once they’re envisioning themselves as the hero and their business pain as the obstacle, prospects will be eager to learn how the rep’s product can help.
Salespeople who immediately demand time on buyers’ calendars without first adding value typically don’t get many responses. The goal of the first few emails should be establishing a relationship, not scheduling a discovery call or pitching a product.
That’s why “help” is a powerful word. Prospects are incentivized to respond so they can take salespeople up on their offer. In addition, they’re more likely to trust the rep when she’s clearly interested in being useful.
The rise of easily accessible product information means buyers and sellers are on more equal footing than ever before. To show prospects they’re fully on board with this balance of power, reps should use “us” and “we” instead of “I.” This makes every request feel collaborative -- not one-sided or self-serving.
Take a look at the difference:
Before: “If you’re interested, I can show you how to implement this strategy.”
After: “If you’re interested, let’s discuss how to implement this strategy.”
How salespeople frame their message is almost as important as the message itself. So watch your words -- it makes a difference.
Originally published Sep 26, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated June 10 2021