It’s Time to Stop Dehumanizing Customers with Our Language

By Matt Conway

Words have power. How you, as a company leader and sales leader, talk about your potential customers has a tremendous impact on your growth results and that of your new business salespeople.

Think about the words the sales profession habitually uses to describe potential customers and how many organizations still describe the sales process: Potential customers are “suspects,” “prospects,” and “targets”…to be “probed,” “qualified,” “handled,” “controlled,” and – finally – “closed.”

Dehumanizing much?

Many sales organizations I’ve visited have “war rooms” to review their deals. In strategy sessions, “beachheads” and “outflanking” to “beat” the competition are discussed.

In account planning, accounts are to be “penetrated.”

New hires – “aggressive” “hunters” and “closers.”

Now just imagine for a moment that your “must win” customers were listening in on these conversations. Do you think they would ever want to work with your salespeople or your company if they overheard how you talk about them? Or would they flee to the hills to escape your barbaric and rapacious hordes?

“Yeah, but they’re not listening in – so it’s OK. Right?”

It’s not. Here’s why you might want to reconsider how you describe potential customers and be very intentional about the words you use.

The latest research in neuroscience and linguistics shows that the words you use play an important role in regulating emotion and behavior – from communicator to recipient and back again – and, for many salespeople, this is done at an unconscious level. They’re not intentional in the words they choose.

If sales is the transfer of emotion and energy to another human being, what energy and emotion are being transferred to your potential customers when your sellers are on the phone or three feet away from them?

Is your salesperson picturing the human being opposite them as a “target” to be “hunted” and “closed?” And, if so, how do you think the “target” will feel? Defensive or open? Ready to do business, or thinking how to get your seller out of their office?

As a sales leader, this is your responsibility to change, expect, and make intentional. Like kids who model the behavior and language of their parents, your salespeople will model the words they hear from you. If you talk and describe your potential customers in the terms above, you shouldn’t be surprised that your salespeople’s customer interactions – from prospecting to discovery conversations – aren’t delivering the results you want to see and hear.

YOU need to start changing your language and being intentional about how you describe your potential customers and where they are in their buying journey, if you want your salespeople to model the same.

Awareness is the first step. STOP using the words above. START being intentional in your choice of words. Openly correct yourself in front of your salespeople when you call a potential customer a “target.” They’ll soon get the message.

You’ll be glad…and so will your new customers.

Matt Conway’s clients say that their salespeople dramatically accelerate their sales cycle and fill their pipeline with high-probability opportunities by gaining access to C-suite decision makers – in minutes…not weeks, months, or never. Matt’s executive access advisory services – consulting, copywriting, mentoring, and speaking make a significant positive impact on the companies that engage him and the individuals who come in contact with him – on professional and personal levels. Matt’s background in company leadership, go-to-market strategy, sales leadership, NLP, and Peak Performance Mindset, coupled with his ability to “lead from the front,” drive immediate and dramatic tactical results making him both a valued advisor to executives and a respected mentor to employees.

About Lisa

Editorial Director at SellingPower.com.
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