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Sandler Training in Calgary | Calgary, AB

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In a training session several years ago, I wanted to demonstrate the power of language to our clients so I role played with one of our kindest, gentlest clients.

  • Me, “tell me how you selected your cell phone provider for your business.”
  • Them, “well I considered this and this and this and this then made a decision.”
  • Me, “interesting.” (neutral tone and body language)

When we debriefed the role play, I asked our client, “how did you feel when I said ‘interesting’?” and they said, “I wanted to punch you.”

Because humans tend to be I-centred we forget that our communication is not about us, the sender, but about our receiver, who is passing our message through all of their scripts, filters and other parts of their world view. That’s how a word like “interesting” can unintentionally break rapport with our receiver.

Our tendency to be I-centred also flares up when we speak with a gatekeeper. When the gatekeeper resists our request to include more people in the conversation by saying something like, “tell me about it and I’ll tell them,” we might be tempted to say, “well it’s a really complex issue.”

We might be attempting to say that the issue has a lot of components and it would be better to have everyone involved in the conversation, but the gatekeeper likely hears “complex” and interprets that as “you’re not smart enough to understand.” Having coached several salespeople through situations like this, that’s a fairly common interpretation.

There’s a (possible apocryphal) story about Jerry Seinfeld taking three hours to turn an eight-word joke into a five word joke, which speaks to the power of clarity to prompt our receiver to respond or take action with limited friction.

The language police are inactive here. Making our communication frictionless means shifting our focus from us to our receiver(s) and adjusting our word choices to best match how they perceive the world.

Marketers tend to be good at adjusting word choices because they have learned to do a lot of testing. David Sandler developed his communications system from debriefing his interactions with prospects and discovering the roadblocks he continually ran into.

When we have a less than positive interaction, professional or personal, there’s great power in making time to debrief shortly after to figure out where the interaction went sideways and how we might adjust in a similar situation in the future to have a more successful interaction.

Next time we prepare for a conversation with a colleague, direct report, prospect or client let’s consider our outcomes, the other’s world view and how we might choose our words to create a successful conversation.

Until next time… go sell something.

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