Words Have Meaning

By Dawn Lospaluto
In July 1, 2015

dictionaryLast time, in “Facta, non verba,” we talked about words and deeds, and the importance of backing up the former with the latter. I think most folks would agree that what you do is more important than what you say, although ideally both should be in sync. But as critical as actions are, the importance of words themselves should not be discounted because what we say—and how we say it—forms the foundation of our ability to communicate with each other.

In our on-demand world, we generally have a very limited amount of time to get our point across. Short attention spans, crowded schedules, multi-tasking, electronic device interruptions all combine to force us to “keep it short” when we are trying to convert prospects into customers. In a tweet-happy society, we must choose our words wisely if we are to get our point across in the time allotted.

When we are trying to convince someone to do something (such as use our company’s services), we can a variety of words, each reflecting a slightly different approach, including words that:

  • Persuade the person to act. (“We’re the best company to use.”)
  • Convince the person to act. (“What we do will benefit you greatly.”}
  • Entice the person to act. (“The time to close the deal is right now.”)

Persuade, convince, and entice may sound similar, are even occasionally almost interchangeable, but they are actually distinct, requiring different mindsets and taking different paths of presentation.

To persuade, from the Latin root words “per + suadere (through + influence), is to sway someone with logic or feelings, i.e., we can offer facts, present a clearly outlined argument, and show the bottom-line result of the action, or we can appeal to the person’s emotions.

Charities often do a good job a combining both types of persuasion, offering the facts about the need for a donation and then making an emotional appeal. Humane organizations, for example, will explain how donations are used to rescue x-number of dogs and cats from squalid conditions, then show photos of emaciated animals with pleading eyes to melt the heart of the potential donor.

In business-to-business situations, it is a little harder to take the emotional path of persuasion, unless, for example, you are donating a part of your fee to charity, so you may have to lean heavily on the facts and figures: Proof of your great quality and service, samples of previous work, recommendations from other satisfied customers, a very competitive bid.

To convince, from the Latin “con+vincere” (with/by + conquering), is to overcome someone through the force of your argument. One of the best ways to convince someone is to turn your persuasion approach around; instead of talking about yourself, put the spotlight on your prospect, showing how your services will affect—and, of course, substantially benefit—him and his company.

To entice, from “en+titio” (in + fire/firebrand), is to tempt someone, to lead him on via hope or desire, to light a fire under him. You may persuade someone that you are a logical choice and convince him that choosing you will be to his benefit, but until you entice him to act, fire him up to sign the contract, you have only made a good sales call, not a winning one.

One of the best ways to move someone to action is to put a time limit on your offer. Car salespeople are great at this. They will do almost anything to keep the potential buyer from leaving the showroom without making a deal, i.e., without letting the emotional response to a new car fade away before they have purchased it. They will even ask, “What would it take for you to buy today?” or warn, “These prices are only good until the end of the day today.”

A limited time offer or a special introductory first-time-buyer discount, or some other incentive that will go away if not acted on immediately, may provide your prospect with the spark he needs to say yes to the deal. A note of caution: Do not browbeat the prospect or scare him off with a looming, inflexible deadline.

You may not need to persuade, convince, and entice every prospect. Some people may just require that final temptation to close the deal; others may be ready to sign and just want to see the facts to back up their intent; still others may be concerned only with how your services will benefit them, and not care about facts such as price. But having all three approaches in your sales arsenal—and then backing up everything you say with award-winning performance, of course—will surely arm you for success.

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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