Words That Sell
Words are the salesperson’s most effective tool. Words form the building blocks of rapport, and rapport leads to sales. Salespeople require good listening skills, but good listening skills alone do not guarantee sales. Successful salespeople listen to what customers say, analyze what they said, and integrate the newly acquired information within the context of the customers’ world. Buying obstacles raised by customers don’t have to make sense in the salesperson’s world; it only has to make sense in the customers’ world. When salespeople enter a customer’s world, buying obstacles can be identified and overcome. Empathic Statements allow salespeople to quickly build rapport and to analyze and overcome buying obstacles from the customer’s perspective.
Empathic statements mirror a person’s language, physical status, or state of mind. Empathic statements accomplish two objectives. First, empathic statements keep the focus of the conversation on the customer. Second, empathic statements subtly elicit information from the customer that he or she would not normally reveal. Empathic statements capture the crux of what customers say, their physical status, or state of mind and, using parallel language reflect that message back to the customers.
The format for constructing simple empathic statements is “So you…” The “So you…” construction keeps the focus of the conversation on the customer rather than on the salesperson. Salespeople should avoid statements such as “I know how you feel.” Customers will likely think, “This salesperson is not me and cannot know how I feel.” This unspoken reaction often damages rapport. The goal of empathic statements is to look at the world through the customers’ perspective. Consider the following example:
Salesperson: May I help you?
Customer: I’m just looking. (Yawing)
Salesperson: Looks like you had an exhausting day. (Empathic Statement)
Customer: Yeah, I you wouldn’t believe the day I had. I had customers coming into the store nonstop.
Salesperson: So, you’re usually not that busy. (Empathic Statement)
Customer: Yeah, I couldn’t take it if I were that busy every day.
The salesperson saw the customer yawning and formed an empathic statement based on her physical status. When the customer responded, the salesperson constructed a follow-on empathic statement. Empathic statements used in series quickly build rapport and elicit additional information to identify buying obstacles.
In the following exchange, the salesperson used empathic statements to keep the focus on the customer and used empathic statements along with other psychological principles to identify and overcome buying obstacles for the purchase of an extended warranty for a $750 computer.
Salesperson: Would you like to purchase an extended warranty for your computer?
Customer: How much does it cost?
Salesperson: Ninety-nine dollars for three years.
Customer: I’m not sure if it is worth it to buy the extended warranty.
Salesperson: So you don’t want to spend the extra money if you don’t think you’re going to use it. (Empathic Statement)
Customer: Yeah! I already spent a lot of money for this computer.
Salesperson: So you’re balancing the $2.75 per month for the 3-year extended warranty against the $750 you paid for this computer. (Empathic Statement) (Contrast Principle)
Customer: That doesn’t sound like a lot when you put it that way.
Salesperson: The majority of our customers purchase the extended warranty. (Conformity)
Customer: Okay, I think I better buy the extended warranty.
Salesperson: You’re making the right decision. (Neutralizing buyer’s remorse)
The salesperson identified price as the customer’s buying obstacle to purchasing the extended warranty. Rather than offering reasons to convince the customer to buy the extended warranty, the salesperson allowed the customer to overcome his own objective by constructing a series of empathic statements. Customers like to feel like they are in control. The salesperson also used the Contrast Principle to overcome the affordability obstacle. The salesperson broke the $99 cost down to a monthly cost of $2.75. The customer will now compare spending $2.75 a month to protect his investment of $750 as compared to spending $99 to protect an investment of $750. The former proposition is a lot more attractive that the latter proposition, although, in the end, the customer pays the same price for the warranty. The salesperson also incorporated the Conformity Principle. People want to fit in and belong to the majority. If most people buy the extended warranty, I should buy the warranty too. After making a purchase, especially a large one, people often feel guilty. This is commonly referred to as buyer’s remorse. In this example, the sales person reaffirmed that the customer made the right decision, thus reducing the potential for buyer’s remorse.
Empathic statements are the foundation of effective communication. Empathic statements require salespeople to listen not only to what customers say but to capture the essence of their communication. The salesperson is forced to focus his or her attention on the customer's message in order to form effective empathic statements.The reflected message sends the powerful message that the salesperson is not only listening but understands what the customer said. Adding additional components to the empathic statement such as the contrast principle, conformity principle, and neutralizing buyer’s remorse significantly increase the probability of a successful sale.