Choose Your Words Carefully

Make your sales prospects feel comfortable

Salesperson talking to a prospect

 Andrew Olney / Getty Images

People like to feel comfortable. And they usually feel most comfortable around other people who are like them. So it follows that, as a salesperson who is trying to build rapport with prospects, you'll want to match your word choice to your prospects' likes and dislikes.

Make Prospects Feel Comfortable

Choosing your words wisely is an important component of making your prospects feel comfortable with you. That means avoiding sales or industry jargon unless your prospect has already used that phrase or otherwise demonstrated that they prefer a highly technical level of conversation.

If you do end up in a situation where you absolutely have to use an industry-specific word - for example, the prospect asks you a question about how the product does a certain task - take the time to explain what the technical term means or at least use it in a way that makes the meaning obvious.

If you use a phrase your prospect doesn't understand, you will most definitely make them uncomfortable. No one likes to say “What does that word mean?” to someone they're considering doing business with. And if your prospect says nothing, then they'll feel uncomfortable and also won't understand what you're saying – a recipe for disaster.

An even worse situation occurs when you use a highly technical word that YOU are not 100% familiar with. If you misuse an industry word and your prospect realizes that fact, you'll sound like an idiot. The prospect's trust in you and your level of expertise will go right out the window. When in doubt, stick to less technical terms even if you think it doesn't sound as professional.

Use Language Appropriate for Your Prospect

When you design your standard sales presentation, keep the language at a level that you're sure will make your prospects comfortable. If it becomes clear during a presentation that your prospect is more technically minded, you can always raise the technical level of your pitch... but only use words that you are completely familiar with.

On the other hand, if the prospect is the one to use a technical word or phrase and you don't know what it means, you may feel embarrassed about admitting your ignorance to the prospect. Whether to speak up or remain silent will depend upon the situation.

If you feel you've already developed a pretty good rapport with the prospect, go ahead and ask. You can actually make the prospect feel better about you because he'll enjoy having the chance to teach you something (and thus feel smarter).

If you're having a tough time creating a connection with the prospect, you might be better off not saying anything. But in that case, write the word or phrase down and look it up later or ask a colleague what it means. Then you'll know what it means the next time you run across a technical-minded prospect.

Avoid Words That Evoke Negative Feelings

Aside from jargon, there are a few words it's better to avoid in a sales presentation. As a rule, stay away from words and phrases that might bring up negative feelings in your prospect. For example, using the word “contract” might make your prospect feel restricted or conjure images of being trapped with your company, so you might train yourself to say “agreement” instead, which has a much more positive association.

Of course, sometimes the situation will require you to say “contract.” In that case, go ahead and say it. You'll only make your prospect more uncomfortable if you contort your language all around just to avoid a relatively harmless phrase.