"If your sales guys can’t sell at my conference – well, that’s a bit like going bobbing for breasts in a barrel and coming out sucking your thumb!!”
Two weeks into my first real sales job, in a basement in Old Street (London) and I hear my boss throw that line down the phone at a prospect. To say I was shocked would be an understatement but it was just one of the regular examples of the ‘no-nonsense’ corkers she would use when speaking to prospects.
This was hardly surprising given the environment – 50 sales people, 8 computers round the edge of the room that you had to queue at lunchtime for to research and print out paper leads, a phone, and more ambition than the opening auditions of the X-Factor!
It was like an ancient Roman gladiatorial ludus, where phones were the new swords and infallible ego’s were the new shields. Was this a trading floor at a bank? A boiler room at a brokers? No, it was a small conference company selling sponsorship to some of the biggest companies on the planet. Each day we would sit with 100 printed ‘leads’ which consisted of a phone number, a web page of the company directors, an overview of the company and an ‘angle or hook’ for engaging the prospect.
Marketing material? Nope. Case studies? Nope. Face to face meetings? Nope. And yet did it make money….…ohhhh yes….hand over foot!
How? 2 hours a day talking to prospects was the target and there was one rule that got banged into you in training more than most by the ‘Doctores’…sorry I mean managers…No ‘fluffy’ language!
As the years have passed I have purposely forgotten a lot of what I learnt in that basement – including the use of quotes like the one at the start of this post, but the point about ‘fluffy’ language has always stuck.
What is ‘fluffy’ language? I’ll give you an example:
“Do you possibly think that maybe, perhaps, this might be something you could potentially, maybe, have some interest in at some point?”
Why do we do it? I think there are 2 reasons:
Nerves - fear of asking the direct question in case the direct answer you get back isn’t what you want to hear. This is why the general pattern is the more experienced the sales person, the more hardened to rejection, the less ‘fluff’ they will use.
We use ‘fluffy’ words to extend our sentences so that we have more time to actually think about what we’re asking? Often in sales we are so desperate to avoid silence that we fill the gaps when we haven’t actually considered properly what it is we want to say. The use and power of silence we’ll save for another time but ask yourself this; how often do you take a breath, think about what the prospect or client is really saying, formulate your question, and then ask it?
What we look and hope for from a prospect is straight answers, so that we know where we are in the sales process and can move the sale forward accordingly.
But how can we demand straight, clear answers from our prospects and clients if we won’t ask them direct questions?
If we take our earlier example and cut out the ‘fluff’ what are we left with?
“Do you see enough value in the proposition to take this forward?”
No ‘perhaps’, no ‘maybe’, no ‘possibly’ – just a direct question that increases the chances of us getting a straight answer.
Don’t underestimate the damage of ‘fluffy’ language:
Understated confidence is key in sales. ‘Fluff’ can show you lack it
It gives the prospect the chance to give you a ‘fluffy’ answer in response leaving you with uncertainty around the opportunity
It always leads to inaccurate sales pipelines
It wastes valuable time
So, here’s a challenge – get yourself a bunch of low denomination coins and every time you find yourself using a ‘fluff’ word, throw a coin in a jar. If at the end of a week you have enough to buy yourself a sandwich, the chances are you could be getting better answers from your prospects and increasing the quality of opportunities in your pipeline.
Listen to your prospect, take time to formulate your question, and ask it.
As sales people we sometimes forget that the worst that can happen……. is the prospect say’s no.
If you’re sales team has issues with ‘fluffy’ language, then get in touch: