How are Your Clients Perceiving You Based on Wording?

BY Rachel Cagle
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Assertive.” As a salesperson, that's a word you hope people describe you as. It means you’re confident, decisive, and you get results. However, it also means that you can often be misunderstood by potential clients. There’s a fine line between being seen as assertive and aggressive. And that line, according to HubSpot writer Jeff Hoffman, is wording.

When do the sales questions you ask cross the line? Hoffman believes that a good indicator is how lengthy your build-​up and the questions themselves are. The more words you say to a prospect when asking a question, the more content there is to potentially be misinterpreted. One example Hoffman gives of this is, “It’ll probably take less time if I speak to HR myself. Who should I contact?” with HR being the supposed decision-​maker. Let’s break that sentence down:

It’ll probably take less time…” 

Bad start. From the get-​go, you’re implying that you feel time is being wasted with the current person you’re talking with. That’s both mean and aggressive. The result will probably be anger on the part of your potential client, or at least hurt feelings as a result of your supposed hostility.

…if I speak to HR myself.”

Now you’re cutting the current client out of the equation entirely. What sounds more aggressive than, “I don’t feel as if you’re helping me. I don’t need you for this”? Also, are you even sure at this point that you’re not speaking to the buyer? Maybe they haven’t made that clear in order to see how you operate.

Who should I contact?”

Oof, right in the kisser. First, you've implied that talking with them is a waste of time. Now, you’re asking them to point you in the direction of someone better equipped to handle the sale than they are. Savage. Aggressive. Either word works.

That’s why Hoffman recommends keeping your questions concise and precise. The aforementioned question can be shortened to, “Is anyone in HR assigned to this area?” “The second variation leaves room for the buyer to introduce an alternative (like talking to HR herself, or suggesting a different contact), enabling buyer and rep to come to a mutually agreed-​upon next step,“ says Hoffman.

So, the next time you go in for a sales pitch, make sure to keep your questions concise. That way, you’ll have less of a chance of being misunderstood. Keep it sweet and simple and your message will be clear. And, it’ll save both you and your prospect time as well!