top of page

The language of sales

Updated: May 31, 2023

How we communicate and the words we choose can really change how we are perceived and therefore the outcome of the conversation, whether it is by phone, in-person or by email.

the language of sales, a guide to selling within your small business

Not using the most appropriate language can cause someone to completely shut down and using words that are perceived as positive can help you connect with someone and can be the start of something new.

As we use our words all the time it’s easy to forget that they really matter, we take them for granted but by giving it some thought and by reflecting a little on how we communicate and use language, we can change the narrative of our sales efforts.

Use a positive language

Imagine that you’re a retail buyer and one of your brands have been in touch, which one are you most likely going to respond to:

Hello, I’m sorry for reaching out, I know it’s a busy time and I appreciate that you might not have time to respond to me, but we just launched x product. I completely understand if this is not right for your business but thought I would check anyway.

Hello, I hope your sales are keeping you busy. We are about to launch x product and I wanted to make sure that you saw it first. I’m sure your customers will love it because you have already done so well with x product in our range. When are you free this week for a quick chat?

In scenario A, the seller already set the narrative and what result they expect from their email. This can be frustrating as a buyer as you’re not given the chance to make up your own mind and the negative words, “probably not”, “not right” not only make presumptions about your needs and expectations but also suggests what you should think and how to act.

In scenario B, the seller is informative and offering you a first look at something that they think you will like because you’ve done well with something similar and they invite you to contribute to the conversation. Being shown something first makes you feel prioritised and the seller is also telling you why they believe you will be interested.

Have you got into the habit of apologising all the time? For all sorts of things, I know I’m guilty of this all the time but let’s stop making excuses for getting in touch with potential customers and take the view that you are doing so in order to help them discover you and your brand. You can read more about this in my previous blog post about adopting a sales mindset.

Word and phrases to use and not to use

You (use)

Don’t make it about yourself but find a way to make your prospect the subject. Using ‘You’ can help you achieve this.

Example. I think this is a great fit for your store. Vs. Do you think this would be a great fit for your store?

Value (use)

Communicate how your products will add value to their offering and help them make more sales.

Cheap (don’t use)

Affordable, value or competitive works a lot better and is much more positive.

And instead of But (use)

And has a much more positive connotation as it’s inclusive.

Example. The large candle retail for £30, but it is all-natural with essential oils. Vs. The large candle retail for £30 and it’s all-natural with essential oils.

New (use)

People love the novelty of something new and being the first to discover something. Use this for products but not to describe your brand. A new product is exciting, with brands buyer are more likely to trust you if you’re seen as somewhat established. That doesn’t mean that you should be misleading but you can focus on other things.

Because (use)

In a study by Dr. Ellen Langer at Harvard University she tested peoples willingness to let someone cut the line by using different wording.

Ask #1: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”

Ask #2: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”

Ask #3: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

In ask #1, 60% of the people allowed the researcher to cut the line, in ask #2, 93% agreed and in ask #3, 94% allowed the researcher to go first. This research shows us that by just using the word ‘because’ you’re more likely to get a positive response. And if you use the word ‘because. in combination with giving an actual reason, you are increasing your chances even more.

Imagine (use)

Have you ever watched a property show and heard that half the work is done if you can get the prospective buyer to start to imagine where their furniture would go, what room would be good for their children and where their dog’s bed would go?

Selling products to a potential retail buyer is similar, if you can get the buyer to imagine where in their shop your range fits in, what other items it would be displayed together with and really picture it in their mind you’re off to a very good start.

Names (use)

Using someone’s name throughout a conversation can make them feel like your focus is on them so its a great way to keep a buyers attention.

Problem (don’t use)

Most people would associate this with something negative so instead, use the word challenge as a challenge is something you strive to overcome.

Honest (don’t use)

This implies that you haven’t been honest previously. However, if used sparingly you can use it to build trust, for example, if you are talking through your range with a buyer and they show interest in one of your old lines you are about to discontinue because it doesn’t sell well you may use the word and say something like, “honestly, the sales of this product has really slowed down lately so I would recommend x product instead”.

Buy (don’t use)

I prefer the word, ‘invest’ or ‘move forward’ or something along the lines of, ‘do you need a top-up order?’, ‘Would you like to go ahead with an order?’.

Cheap (don’t use)

Affordable or competitive works a lot better and is much more positive.

Focus on benefits rather than features

People buy into benefits rather than all the products features. For example. You don’t buy a smartphone because it has a camera but because of how easy it is to take and share your pictures which help you run your business.

When describing your products focus on the benefits rather than the features of the products.

Here are a couple of examples:

We use carbon neutral soy wax. Vs. We use carbon neutral soy wax which is kinder to the environment and it burns without emitting any harmful fumes. Your customers will love that they are a lot safer to burn around their children and pets.

Our pens are refillable vs. Let’s reduce our waste and save our environment together. Our refillable pens last for a long time as you can keep topping them up and our stockists love the fact that their customers keep coming back for their refills.

I appreciate that these examples are stating the obvious but they don’t assume that the buyer would not understand this, it’s simply helping the buyer make a more emotional connection with what you are selling. This makes it really easy for them to imagine how they would sell your products in their store.

In summary

There’s not really anything right or wrong and the most important thing is to use a language that feels authentic to you as this will make you come across the most approachable. These are just a few techniques that you can use if you are not getting the results you want or you tend to overthink things.

If you need some help tweaking your sales strategy, your email approach letter, or perhaps you’re about to exhibit at a trade show and you want to be prepared, get in touch to talk about how we can work together and how I can help you.


bottom of page