Be careful of the power of words

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They can be sharp as a razor and comforting as a pillow

Truth be told we have a problem in this country with our language.  We call it English.  But it’s certainly not the same as people in England speak and our language did not solely come from England.


The United States has been rightfully called a “melting pot”. It’s been true from the very beginning of the time settlers started to come here to take the land away from the Native Americans. 


They journeyed from different places: Spain, Portugal, England.  Some arrived from the Slavic countries.  Later from Germany and Ireland, depending upon the economic climates at the time. 

Each group of immigrants brought their language with them and tried to integrate words and concepts into the America they encountered.  Aspects of their languages, sometimes modified, became part of our lexicon.


The United States doesn’t have a very strict language control notion and it certainly has gotten laxer over the years. 

We also live in a society that doesn’t value adherence to definitions, very highly.  We’re more relaxed in that fashion.


Many times, our belief of the meaning of a word is based on our interpretation of it when we first learn it.  As well as the context in which we learned it.  This makes for some very interesting conversations, especially when discussing the terms and conditions of a deal or a contract.


Imagine, if you will, that you are in a room with 100 people.  Yes, the 100 is completely arbitrary, but work with me here.  

These people are all seated at tables, and you ask them to please close their eyes and keep them closed.  Then ask them to imagine in their mind the color red.  You ask them to stay seated, with their eyes closed, for a few moments and focus on their imagined color red.


While this is occurring, you and your assistant hand out color charts much like the paint chip charts you get at the paint store.  This of course assumes that multiple colors are incorporating red. 


You then ask them to open their eyes and look at the color chart in front of them.  And without thinking, point to the color sample that most closely resembles the red they had imagined.  How many different reds do you think you would get?  They’re all red!

Imagine then what happens when words such as performance, satisfaction, timeliness, reasonable, quality, reliability, and more are used in discussions and negotiations.


The point here is that as sellers we must be very careful in our use of language.  


Too many salespeople deliberately use terms and acronyms to obfuscate the facts of their offering. Or use less-common words to impress, like I just did with “obfuscate”. 

I could have said, “confuse”, “blur”, or even “muddy”.  It does not help to clarify and build consensus.


It is our job as salespeople to ensure that there is understanding and agreement on the terms, the conditions, and the definitions before we get into contract discussions.  


This extends beyond just terms.  Remove any confusion or ambiguity on timelines, processes, roles, and responsibilities. For the most part, all this takes is a little bit of care and attention to detail.  On your part.


And it almost never slows the deal.


Measure twice cut once.  Always good advice.

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