So, like, I’ve been a salesperson for years and, well, I’ve learned kind of a few things. And today, I want to, um, share some of what I’ve learned with you -- if that’s okay?

If you’re a salesperson and you speak like this, here’s a reality check: It is going to be very, very hard to convince prospects to buy. No matter how much you know, if you don’t speak like an authority figure, you’ll never be treated like one. And prospects don’t buy from salespeople they don’t trust.

It’s not easy to build authority, especially if your prospects can’t see you. When Leonardo DiCaprio wanted viewers to believe he was the Wolf of Wall Street, he had his whole body to prove the point. But when an inside sales professional wants to establish their authority over the phone, they need to use their voice tone and pacing to get the point across.

What Not to Say

Unless you remove the following problematic soundbites from your vocabulary, you won’t be able to fully achieve the authority you need.

1) Filler words

The opening sentences of this post are full of unnecessary filler words: “um,” “like,” “well,” “maybe,” “I think.” Sales reps who use these words sound like hesitant amateurs, so be very careful to avoid them.

2) Overly enthusiastic language

Part of a salesperson’s job is to stay positive. You can’t get upset or annoyed at yourself if you want to stay productive, and you certainly can’t become frustrated with your prospects. But you can overdo it -- acting overly excited or eager makes you seem juvenile. Words and phrases such as “awesome,” “cool,” and “oh my god!” should be deployed sparingly. Overuse will make you sound like you’re back in high school, and decrease the likelihood of prospects taking you seriously.

3) Profanity

You never know who you might offend. In some fields, swearing is accepted (from personal experience, I know the copier industry and Wall Street use colorful language), but in most cases, it’s not. If you sense that your prospect is a bit more foul-mouthed than average and you can get away with it, go right ahead.

4) Jargon

Speaking like an authority figure doesn’t mean talking like a pretentious robot. Talk like a businessperson, but don’t assume deep knowledge or expertise in your buyers' industry.

7 Phrases That Make You Sound Like an Authority Figure

When you’re qualifying prospects, you’ll need to ask some variation of the eight questions below to get the information you need. But there’s a good way and a bad way to find out who a decision maker is. Phrase your qualification questions like so to establish yourself as a credible authority.

1) “Tell me about your business pain.”

This is a question that gets to the heart of need. You don’t want your prospect to tell you every little problem they have -- you need to hear about the challenge that’s keeping their CEO up at night. Ask a prospect what problems they’re having and they won’t know what to say first. Ask them about pain and you’ve focused them on the one thing that’s their biggest obstacle.

2) “What is your biggest inhibitor to growth?”

The phrase “inhibitor to growth” makes you sound like a college professor. It’s also the natural follow-up to #1. You’ll gain even more authority if your prospect’s not sure and you’re able to work with them to identify blockers.

3) “What type of return on investment are you looking for?”

With this question, you’re tossing the ball to your prospect and giving them an opportunity to show off what they know. It’s also an easy way to ingratiate yourself with results-minded individuals. Instead of asking a vague question about goals, find out exactly what they expect to get back from the money they’d put toward buying your product.

4) “What do you know about [name of solution]?”

Ask this question if your product is fairly differentiated and affiliated with a certain business philosophy. For example, a HubSpot sales rep would ask prospects if they were familiar with inbound marketing or inbound sales.

Like #2 and #3, this question plays double duty -- it’s a gracious statement that allows your prospect to share their knowledge, but it also shows you exactly how much your prospect knows and reveals how much you’ll need to educate them.

5) “Do we need an executive sponsor?”

In B2B sales, an executive sponsor is a high-level employee on the seller’s side who can provide guidance, expertise, or education to buyers. I’ve offered an executive sponsor to prospects hundreds of times -- but have only been called on to deliver one once or twice. Letting prospects know early on that this is an option available to them makes them feel taken care of.

6) “Let’s talk about the implementation process.”

This statement lends itself to walking through a methodology. It demonstrates to prospects that you have an orderly onboarding process in place and that you’re not about to haphazardly slap something together.

7) “Who besides yourself on the senior management/executive team is interested in this?”

Asking a prospect flat-out if they’re a decision maker is rude and condescending. Your prospect may not be anywhere near the senior management team. However, this phrasing flatters the prospect while simultaneously uncovering exactly whose sign-off you’ll need to get.

As a salesperson, the only two things you can control in your job are how you spend your time and how you communicate with prospects. Be highly deliberate about the words you say so you’re able to command any prospect conversation.

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Originally published Nov 5, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Communication