There is an old joke where a young man takes a job selling mouthwash door to door, and is given a suitcase full of 100 bottles priced at five dollars per bottle on his first day. He is one of three new salespeople hired that day, and all of them are nervous to do well. At the end of the day, the manager has the salesmen lined up, and asks them all to let him know how many bottles they sold today. The first salesman admits to only selling five bottles, and the manager simply lets him know it will take a little time before he gets good at it. The second salesman admits to doing slightly better at fifteen bottles, and the manager is pleased. The manager asks the young man how he many he sold, and he opens his suitcase which is now empty and tells the manager he has sold all of them. Surprised, the manager asked him how he could have possibly sold all of the mouthwash in one day. The young man said he simply set up a table by the side of the road and set out doughnuts filled with coal, and next to that he set out the bottles of mouthwash. Customers would then come buy the doughnuts, which were priced at twenty five cents, and when the customers complained that it tastes like coal, he would simply ask them if they would like to purchase a bottle of mouthwash. It goes without saying that all of the customers purchased a bottle of mouthwash with their doughnut.

This story is funny, but it also rings quite true of sales in general. You must think outside of the box when working in any sales position, and one of the most important skills to have is the ability to be completely in control of what you say and how you say it. Eloquence is so important, as everything comes down to the ability to speak well. There are so many examples, but one that stands out to me is negating the negatives. So, instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know,” you would say, “That’s a great question, let me get that answer for you!” Another great example is instead of saying, “We could probably do that, but it would cost more,” you would say, “The added cost is certainly worth it, and we can definitely look into getting that done for you!”

Sales linguistics has been developing since humans began selling and exchanging products and services to each other, and continues to be innovated all the time as new terminology and trends manifest in modern language. It has been proven time and time again that the way something is worded can mean the difference between a sale, and a prospective buyer going elsewhere for whatever product or service they are interested in. The added notion of what a salesperson is capable of causing their prospective buyer to say is also just as important. For example, at the car dealership where I work, the common practice is to get the prospective buyer to say “yes” at least 72 times prior to asking for the sale (which in translation is essentially asking them to purchase the vehicle). There has been research done by the National Automotive Dealers Association that has shown if a salesperson gets a prospective buyer to say “yes” at least 72 times prior to asking for the sale, their chances of making the sale increases by 60%.

This may sound like a daunting task, but it is actually not that hard. Yet again, it is entirely dependent upon your ability to be crafty with your words. Instead of asking a prospective buyer yes or no questions such as, “Do you like this?” Or, “Isn’t this a great feature?” One would ask questions such as, “If you had this feature in your vehicle, would you use it?” And, “Can you picture yourself driving down the road, and playing your favorite song on this system?” Even questions such as, “Wouldn’t you say there is plenty of room in the trunk for the golf bag you mentioned earlier?” These are all well crafted questions because they relate the prospective buyer to features and benefits of the vehicle they are looking at, causing them to picture themselves in the position of owning the vehicle while getting them excited about it. All the while, you are in complete control of the conversation, and only asking questions you know the prospective buyer will answer “yes” to. It is probably fairly simple to see now how easy it can be to get a prospective buyer to say “yes” at least 72 times.

Interestingly enough, body language is also a large part of sales linguistics. Most people wouldn’t think that they way you move your body, the faces you make, or even the way that you are able to make your prospective buyer move, would be part of the way you utilize sales language. There are techniques such as the Mirror Image, where you essentially act as a mirror to the prospective buyer. If the buyer puts their hands in their pockets, you do the same; if they slouch their shoulders, you do the same; if they turn to their left, you turn with them; and so on. With this type of technique, it clearly isn’t something you would be glaringly obvious about doing or you would look awful strange, but the key here is to be subtle about it. When people make these types of movements, it is all out of an unconscious need to feel more comfortable with the situation. What you are simply doing here, is copying their movements in an effort to make them feel more comfortable with you.

In sales, the key is to make certain you are in control the entire time, both physically and mentally on every level. It is amazing how easy it can become to guide people into moving or speaking the way you want them to, no matter how rigid they try and make themselves out to be to you. More often than not, people will come in with a poker face, trying to seem transparent to you in a vague attempt at maintaining some sort of control of the situation. I give a simple test to everyone I talk to in order to help me determine if they will crack under pressure, and it is amazing how accurate it is.

Once I have them sitting at my desk, I take out a pack of gum, and ask if they want a piece. About 90% to 95% of the time, they will say no. If they happen to say yes, I know they are likely more confident than most people, and I will have to be more on top of my game in order to keep control. Again, there are always exceptions to the rule, but it is generally the case. If they say no, I prod them a little bit by saying, “Are you sure? I don’t mind.” If they say no again, I say, “Oh, come on, it’s just a piece of gum, it’s not like I’m asking you for a credit card yet!” This will generally initiate a chuckle, and at this point, will often cause about 50% of the people to crack and take the gum simply out of trying to be polite. The rest will say no again, I’ll stick a piece in my own mouth, and say, “Well, I’ll take a piece so you don’t have to smell my coffee breath!” This will generally evoke another chuckle, and cause another 20% of people to crack and take a piece to “cover their own coffee breath.”

The reason I do this is that it helps me see who will crack, or essentially give me a little insight as to what may happen when a little pressure is applied to a person in order to force the sale. If they take the gum at the first cracking point, they are typically somewhat easy to push into a sale, and it gets progressively more difficult at each of the next points. If they do not take the gum at all, I know they are the type to stick to their guns, and probably more difficult to sell. It is tricks like this that, if you can perform them seamlessly and smoothly, can certainly give you insight into the behavioral characteristics of another person. These types of tricks, when used alongside the artful linguistics can definitely help you read a person like a book, and control the situation far better.

Sales in general can be likened to a theatrical play, having three major acts. The first act is the introduction, where the players are introduced and the stage is set for what is going to happen. The second act is the body of the play, where the details are laid out, and excitement is generated. The third act is the climax and closing, where the climax is leading up to the point of agreeing to the sale and the closing is finalizing the sale with the paperwork being completed. Also, just like a play has actors, in sales you are essentially an actor. No matter what is going on in your life, or even at work, all of that has to be put aside and you have to become a different person for the duration of time that you are with the prospective buyer. You can really be seen as an award winning actor if you are successful at this, as it is certainly not very easy to do. If you are incapable of hiding your feelings about anything that is going on in order life, or at work, it will shine through and prospective buyers will see this and be turned off by it. The same shines true with being genuinely enthusiastic about your products or services. If you are not, and if you do not believe in what you are selling, the prospective buyers will again see this, and not want to purchase from you. If you do not believe in your products and services, why should they?

So, with that, your skills in sales primarily come down to having great communication and body language skills. It comes down to what you say, and how you say it, for all intents and purposes becoming an artisan of words. How you move matters greatly, and how you are able to make your prospective buyers move with you. All of these things come into play, and it is all very important. At least to me, sales should be seen as an art form. There is a certain confidence about walking into a board room, and knowing that you are going to be in control of everything that happens in that room. There is also a confidence about knowing that whatever conversation you enter into, you will have complete control over the direction it takes.