The Terms of Sale

Here's a list of wonder words that can transform a plodding presentation into a powerful pitch. Learn them -- and how to use them

By Michelle Nichols

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian insists that only 7% of what we communicate is conveyed in words, the cues and clues of tone and body language accounting for the rest. But while the thoughts we actually articulate may be relatively few, only a fool would conclude that our choice of words is unimportant. Just ask Trent Lott, whose ill-advised words recently cost him his job as Senate Majority Leader, or Bill Clinton, whose silver tongue helped him survive all the trouble another part of his body got him into.

In selling, not all words are equal. There are a handful that are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of a salesperson's vocabulary -- they carry more weight and pack a greater punch than their dictionary definitions imply.


  Years ago, I came across a list of "15 Power Selling Words." They are: can, guarantee, proven, easy, quality, health, urgent, you, saves, today, love, money, new, opportunity, and win. Personally, I'd add a sweet sixteenth, free.

Use these words more frequently, and you add impact to your presentations and pitches. They can be a big help in getting and holding the prospects' attention until it's time to get their signatures on the dotted line.

I'm not saying these words can't be beat, but if you haven't compiled your own list, it's a great starter kit. When I speak on the power of words, I always have the audience read them aloud, one word at a time. I tell them to pronounce each one with passion, and the energy in the room soars. Read the list aloud, and test their power for yourself. Then, just as an experiment, use each one in a statement about your product or service. It's a good way to introduce them to your sales vocabulary.


  That list I clipped and filed away also included explanations of how those words work their special magic. "Guarantee" evokes a safety net -- very appropriate these days, and "proven" works because no one wants to be a guinea pig. "Easy" speaks of minimal hassles, while "quality" promises something worthwhile and enduring. As for "health" and "love", who doesn't want what those terms conjure in the mind's eye? "Urgent" commands attention, and "you" makes a direct connection to everyone's favorite subject -- our very own, fascinating selves. "Saves" and "money" make a delightful duet, while "today" is a star soloist with a focused sense of immediacy.

Of them all, "money" is the universal attention-getter. Whose ears don't prick up at the promise of a product or service that "means money in your pocket." And "love" isn't far behind. Doubt that? Well, compare the limp appeal of "You'll like this product," with, "You'll love it!" And don't overlook "win." Everybody loves winners -- and everyone wants to be a winner. Tell people how to win, and you'll lose their attention.

Write down and post your list of powerful selling words where it will be a constant reminder. Put it near the phone, where you can refer to it while talking to clients. If writing letters, e-mails, proposals, or even ad copy is part of your selling process, sprinkle your key words throughout the text. You'll marvel at the way your thoughts acquire a fresh and potent energy.


  Using a combination of these words multiplies their effect. For example, here in Houston, we have a big furniture store whose slogan is, "Gallery Furniture saves you money!" That's a pretty natural combination. Don't take this idea too far, however. I don't recommend telling customers, "Urgent: We can save you money today with our easy, new, proven, quality opportunity to win love and good health. We guarantee it!" Overdo the approach, and you'll have overwhelmed your customer and lost his attention. Another way to increase impact is to use your selling words in a question. For example, "Mr. Customer, would you like to start saving money today with an easy, proven product?"

When I'm selling, the expression, "That's Fantastic" is favorite response, even a client's objection. This works for two reasons: One, it challenges me to keep looking for the opportunity to be found in almost every situation. Second, the response momentarily stuns the prospective customer and gives me a moment to think. (It should also be obvious that there will be some situations when this strategy is not appropriate.)

I recommend practicing this technique before trying it on flesh-and-blood customers. Make a list of common objections, then write out "That's fantastic," followed by a possible response. It doesn't matter whether you ever use this strategy in front of a customer or not, the mere performance of this exercise will make you more battle-ready.


  Here's an example: The customer says, "I'm sorry, we like your product, but we can't afford it." That's your cue to respond, "That's fantastic!" -- pause -- "I'm glad you like it. Now let's figure out a way to get it for you, one that you can live with financially." Then, sell the client on a partial solution or offer an introduction to a financing expert who might be able to pull together a loan package or lease that the customer can afford.

There are dozens of strategies for using the right words to boost sales. The point remains: Words can make, or break, a sale, so choose them wisely and put their power to work. Happy selling!

Michelle Nichols is a sales speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Houston, Tex. She welcomes your questions and comments. You can visit her web site at or contact her at

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