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Think back to recent conversations you had while you were shopping. Unfortunately, chances are very good that sales people who talked with you about their product or service used language that either surprised you, bothered you slightly, or infuriated you so much that you vowed not to do business with them again.
Now, think about the words you and those you work with use when you talk with current and potential customers. What are you saying that offends buyers? What should you be saying instead?
Here are ten of the most common language blunders, with the comments you and your people should be making instead:
1. "I'm surprised you haven't heard about our product."
Why that's wrong: Sounds condescending, arrogant, and insulting, implying that the prospect is ignorant.
Better statement: "Since you said our product is unfamiliar to you, I'll take a couple of minutes to describe it and answer your questions."
2. "That's not my job."
Why that's wrong: Not only do you avoid handling a customer's problem yourself, you offer no solution from anyone.
Better statement: "I know just the person who can help you with that problem, and I'll introduce you to her."
3. "Sorry, it's closing time, so I can't talk with you now."
Why that's wrong: Indicates that you work by the clock, not by commitment to customer needs.
Better statement: "As you can see, the store is closing now, but I will be glad to stay around a few minutes until we meet your need."
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4. "To schedule delivery, let me see when I'm going to be in your neighborhood next week."
Why that's wrong: Shows that you have your convenience as the decisive factor in scheduling, not the customer's convenience.
Better statement: "Yes, we can deliver this to you next week. What day and time will suit you best?"
5. "You're the first person who has complained about our service."
Why that's wrong: Implies that the customer is a grouch and troublemaker, and that your company could not possibly be wrong.
Better statement: "Even though we hear plenty of compliments about our service, we know there's always room for improvement, so I'm grateful that you reported this problem".
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6. "Tell me your name again, and what the problem is."
Why that's wrong: Shows that you didn't listen carefully, and this will infuriate a person who is dissatisfied already.
Better statement: "Mr. Adams, as I understood you, your car's air conditioning isn't cooling adequately. Right?"
7. "If you buy this item, you'll help me meet my sales quota for the month."
Why that's wrong: Makes you sound only marginally successful, and reflects that you are using the customer instead of becoming useful for the buyer.
Better statement: "This item has been quite popular this month, and we are hearing good reports from customers who have installed it."
8. "Walk through that door over there, turn left, take the escalator, and you'll be on the floor where we accept returned merchandise."
Why that's wrong: Many people get confused about directions, and if the customer gets lost, you are adding to her frustration.
Better statement: "Let me tell my manager that I am going to take you to the clerk who can assist you with this returned merchandise."
9. "Gosh, I barely got here--had to drop my dog at the vet, traffic was terrible, and I've got this awful headache."
Why that's wrong: Customers aren't interested in your problems, because they are depending on you to solve their problems.
Better statement: "Good morning, I'm glad to meet you." That's all that you need to say about yourself and how you arrived.
10. "That's against our policy."
Why that's wrong: Customers don't want to deal with inflexible bureaucrats, but with sales people who care enough to adjust to unmet needs.
Better statement: "While regulations seem to indicate we can't do this, I believe we can find a way to accommodate your request."
A closing suggestion: Take this list to your next staff or employee meeting. Use the list as a springboard for discussion. Challenge your group to identify other offensive statements, and agree on suitable replacements. Your customers will welcome the refreshingly new climate of courtesy and consideration that permeates your work force.