In this series on building sales character, we have been following a proverb that I believe comes from ancient Jewish tradition (Mishnah):
Watch your thoughts, because they become words.
Watch your words, because they become actions.
Watch your actions, because they become habits.
Watch your habits, because they become your character.
Watch your character, because it becomes your destiny.
In the last blog, we look at the first line. We’ll now take up the next line: Watch your words, for they become actions.
The Power of Words
In a way this is an obvious statement, for humans are the only species capable of articulation of thoughts, through words. Those words have meaning and are actually extremely powerful.
There is a very interesting Greek word: oikodomeo. The word actually means, “to build up.” “Oikos” means “house” and “domeo” means “to build.” Oikodomeo has a connotation of building someone up through encouragement. With your words, you can build a house, create a place where people feel comfortable and welcome.
Or, conversely, you can ruin someone with words.
Not coincidentally, even the Bible tells us how important words are. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” (John 1:1). But whether you believe that particular quote or not, you can see how very important words are. They can build up, or they can destroy.
Many or perhaps all of us have had the experience of a smoothly running relationship—having peacefully existed over a long period of time—suddenly go up in smoke due to words spewed out by one or the other of the people involved. It can be devastating. Words can even ruin a home.
Words Versus Actions
Words underscore your actions. They either confirm or betray what you’re actually doing. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of seeing people’s actions conflicting with their words.
For many years, there has been a movement in the business world for companies to diligently figure out their visions and mission statements. Today this has become crucially important. But all too often there is a broad divide between a mission statement and the actual behavior of a company. The words say one thing, but what the customers are experiencing is something else altogether. Such differences can also be found internally within a company, in regards to the way staff are treated.
Words Leading Society Astray
When a society is going astray—becoming more and more ruthless with words—ruthless actions follow. If someone says, “I hate you! I will kill you!” it can certainly happen that murder actually follows. All too often, words do lead to actions.
Our society today could certainly be seen to be moving in this direction. How we communicate with one another, in the last few years, has been terrible.
I’m negatively touched by the awful communications in the media. For example, without getting into any particular genre, I’m amazed at the amount of foul and abusive language that shows up in popular music. When people follow up such ruthless words, our society becomes ruthless.
If we look closely, we’re living in an interesting paradox. On the one hand, we see abusive language everywhere we turn—television, movies, music, news media, video games. On the other hand, though, we as customers of a business—and we’re all customers at some point—would never in a million years put up with being treated like that. While we expect, as customers, to be treated compassionately and fairly, are we elsewhere doing just the opposite?
In sales you must definitely watch your words, for your actions will always be compared with them. The words you communicate to your customers, peers, and superiors, either underscore or betray your behavior. It therefore behooves all of us in sales to use our words wisely and with care.
One basic rule to always follow in sales is: before you speak, listen. And then once you have listened, respond appropriately. Always remember that your words can build, comfort, destroy or defeat, help or hurt.
First, there is holding still, just listening. Think through how you’re going to respond. Then respond with care. And there are certainly occasions when people should stop themselves before words slip out of their mouths.
People today tend to just let the words fly out. We talk about everything. We rip everything apart. But at the end of the day, this doesn’t help us. It brings us no further. Sometimes the things that would serve us best are contemplation and quietness. Just stop for a moment—don’t just let it out. Don’t immediately respond when someone says something stupid or ignorant.
Benjamin Franklin pointed out that words, and speaking in general, should be used sparsely and wisely. “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
From a sales perspective, I know that it can sometimes be tough when a customer or prospect is being unfriendly and pushy. What is required at that moment is that you just stop, and act differently than your emotions might dictate. This makes for the difference between a good salesperson and an extraordinary one. At Pipeliner we recommend an altruistic approach to everyone, because you never know when a person we treated well will be there to help us.
Another reason to carefully measure your responses is that you never know what others are saying about you. If you always react in a kind and friendly way, there’s nothing negative they can say about your attitude. Always be building someone up instead of tearing them down.
While you don’t want to use words to tear someone down, at the same time you don’t want to be dishonest, either—I’m not saying that at all. But you don’t have to confront someone in a negative way. For example, if they’re being hurtful, you can say, “Those words are hurtful. Why are you hurting me?” You could also create a clear boundary, and indicate to the other person that it isn’t necessary to overstep that boundary. You can politely say that further conversation in a certain vein means that you’ll be leaving.
No one deserves to be yelled at or abused when it isn’t their fault. And even when it is their fault, it’s still not the best way to handle it.
Using the Weapon of Words in Sales
In sales, how do you use your weapon wisely? Because words are certainly a weapon. Sometimes they’re like a sword. Sometimes they can be used as a positive weapon—for example, you can cut away rotten parts of partially rotted fruit, and still have the good stuff.
If you’re being abused by a client or a customer, you certainly don’t have to take it. You could gently point out that it isn’t right to speak to someone like that—there’s no reason to sit there like a lamb waiting to be eaten by the lion.
When you’re using words, always keep in mind what you’re trying to accomplish. What’s the end goal of your communication? Also, remember that words are not always talking—they are communicated through video, podcasts, or written medium.
Words and Pictures
As we know, some pictures communicate even faster than words. It can be either a positive or a negative communication. Think about some of the terrible images used by ISIS, for example.
A word can also create an instant picture in the mind. The word “Normandy” creates, for many people, a picture of the Normandy landing at the end of World War II. Another more recent example would be “the first man on the Moon”—a picture of Neil Armstrong would be right in the mind of anyone who has seen the recent movie, or even the preview.
So pictures create words in the mind of the viewer, and words can also create pictures. Visualization is an extremely powerful communication tool, often used in marketing.
Marketing is the master of using words and creates a “universe” that is either lived by the company or destroyed by the company. If a company isn’t living up to the beautiful words in the marketing materials, customers will not be happy.
The Filter In the Brain
Words could be conceived to be received by a filter in our brain, one which transforms received words into pictures.
The sender of the message is responsible for how a message is being received—something to always bear in mind in sales. Messages we send are not always received correctly even when we try, because the mental filter is acting in a certain way, and operates based on the person’s upbringing, experience, education, culture, and many other factors. These mental filters mean that there is never such a thing as perfect communication, as it can always be misinterpreted.
A great technique for avoiding misinterpretation in sales is to have a prospect or customer repeat back to you their understanding of what you’ve told them. You can ask in a way that won’t insult them, for example, “What does that mean to you?” or “How could this impact your situation?”
Network Selling Model and The Golden Rule
Our Network Selling Model is probably the most important program in the world for the future. With it, salespeople evolve to be more responsible, more drawn to real-life situations, and react with more social intelligence. Just applying this model people are far less likely to become criminals or be awful to other people. It brings about a person who is more of an adult, and a nicer human being. It’s what we need to make this world a better place.
The Network Selling Model make it possible for everyone to be treated the way they would like to be treated as a customer—as the Golden Rule tells us.
The Golden Rule is a simple truth, as all important truths are. For that reason, you should be as simple as possible with your words (without insulting people’s intelligence, of course).
And apply the Golden Rule with words. If you don’t want people yelling at you, then don’t yell. If you don’t want others hurting you with words, then don’t hurt others with words. If you don’t like being pushed down with words, don’t do it to others.
Watching Your Words
So how can you watch your words?
First of all, think it through. Is what you’re going to say nice? Good? Does it make sense? If not, put a stop to it and don’t say it.
Words lead to actions. And negative words, fulfilled as actions, can be very destructive.
This isn’t only to others, by the way. The words you say to yourself, and the actions that come after, can have positive or negative impacts. In some religions, it’s even said that people are punishing themselves. I personally know some that do this—saying things such as, “What an idiot I am!” They curse themselves! When you say something like that to yourself, you have set something in motion that is totally worthless. Instead of building you up, it tears you down. A much better approach when you feel you’ve done something wrong is to ask yourself, “What can I learn out of this?”
Keep this in mind: “I succeeded yesterday. It’s tough today—but I can succeed today, too.”