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Changing Our Vocabularies!

by David Brock on September 25th, 2012

The words we use betray our thinking and focus.  How we express ourselves shows our biases, our priorities, our prejudices.  So what, what’s this mean to sales professionals?

We always talk about sales and selling–it’s natural, it’s what we do, it’s who we hang out with, so we do talk about selling.  We do this with our customers all the time, we talk about selling.

And perhaps that’s the problem buyers have.  All we talk about is selling.  It’s incredibly self-centered, it focuses on us and what we do.  In some sense, we’ve trained buyers–they ask us what we are selling.

The words we use shift the focus of the conversation.  If we talk about selling, the focus of the conversation is on us.  What if instead of talking about selling, we constantly focused on buying?  How would our focus and that of our customers change if we just banned the word “selling” and started constantly looking at “buying.”

Just using the word “buying,” immediately changes our mindset.  All of a sudden, rather than focusing internally, the focus becomes external–on the buyer.  We know that we are more impactful when we are focusing on the customer and what the customer wants to achieve.  What we sell is meaningful only how it helps the customer achieve their goals.

Somehow, however, it’s very difficult to keep focused on our customers.  Part of it is human nature, as human beings, we tend to be self-centered.   We constantly talk about what we do and what we sell.  So it’s easy to understand how we lose focus on the customer.

But the simple cue we get just by changing our language can be tremendously impactful in the way we behave and engage our customers.  We can’t banish the words  sell, sales, selling.  But we can reduce their dominance and frequency in our conversations–particularly those involving customers.  If we start positioning our discussions and the words we use in terms of buyer and buying, we will shift our perspectives and behaviors.

Words are important.  They shape how we are perceived and many of our behaviors.  If we want customers to buy, perhaps we should stop talking about selling, and focus on their buying.

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  1. Dave, you raise a very important topic!
    I’d like to add another thought: Talking about “buying” is changing the perspective, absolutely. Couldn’t we change the perspective even more if we were talking about “creating value” or “solving problems”?
    BTW, “selling experience” was on of the first things, I didn’t really understand on The Challenger Sale research results. What’s mentioned there as “selling experience” is “buying experience” of our customers. Our customer are not thinking in terms of “selling”…
    Thanks for addressing this topic – it will definitely help people to get out of their inside-out approaches…

    • Great comment tamara, changing how we express things changes our point of reference. Focusing on buying, value creation, problem solving all get us focused on the customer, which, by the way, gets the customer to focus on us. Funny how that works.

  2. Focusing on the customer is always a good idea, Dave. I like the way you zero in on how to do that here with just a few simple changes in perspective.

    • Heather, thanks for the comment. It’s amazing, small changes in the way we approach customers have a tremendous impact on our results.

  3. Hi Dave, hope all is well over your neck of the woods.

    Like the post, a change of vocabulary can definitely help develop the buyer seller relationship. Another angle that teams over here are finding useful is to look into their buyers procurement policy.
    Doing this is helping them shape the language and sales approach. Hope this angle helps.

    All the best John

    • John, thanks for the comment. Everything we can do to focus on the buyer changes our perspective. Anyone not inveting time in udnerstanding the language of the customer’s procurement organization is certainly going to lengthen their sales cycle in the least. It’s great to hear from you. Regards, Dave

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