“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear” – Frank Luntz. This is an interesting variation on the traditional “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Luntz highlights the importance of considering our audience’s perspective when speaking. Even when we are careful with our words and tone, we must always be sensitive to how people will interpret our speech as it passes through their filters. Many mainstream sales words now carry emotional baggage and must be changed for conversations with today’s clients. I’d like to propose two changes specifically for labels and titles for 2017:
From Customer to Client
The word “customer” has grown a very strong association with retail sales. In high value deals I doubt buyers would appreciate being called customers. As a senior manager for Cadbury, my dad was irritated with the poor service their communications vendor was providing. Though a tolerant and patient person, the straw that broke the camel’s back was being CC’ed into an email where the account manager referred to him as “the customer.” Despite spending millions of dollars every year with this company, this individual demonstrated his lack of care with his thoughtless words. Fortunately he was replaced by a more proactive and respectful consultant who then fixed the issues and saved the account.
Even if you work in retail sales, it wouldn’t hurt to give your patrons a little more esteem by calling them “clients.” Your clients just might be impressed by your respectfulness!
From Sales Executive to Solutions Consultant
Do titles matter? Using a fancy title such as “Executive” may be good for our ego, but it doesn’t speak much about our humility to clients. The word “Sales” may be accurate to what we do, but many of our clients have negative associations with the word. Most have opted for “Business Development Manager,” which is fine but not accurate to their actual function. For brevity I won’t argue semantics, but feel free to express your thoughts in the comments section below.
“Solutions Consultant” is not a common title for sales consultants, but it certainly describes their role well. If your job is to solve client’s problems, then you are helping them find solutions. If you achieve this by asking diagnostic questions and then make recommendations, you are a consultant. Sales will become a natural by-product of these actions.
I don’t disagree with Shakespeare that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, having appropriate names and titles does matter. They influence the way we think and how people perceive us. Right or not, people will make snap judgements about us. Let’s help them by speaking sensitively and having appropriate titles!
Music credit: “Electric” – bensound.com