By Cheryl Kees Clendenon/In Detail Interiors principal owner
Watch your words – sometimes it is not what you say but how you say it. I think this is clear to most business owners. Yet there are words, phrases and philosophies people use without thinking. Are you projecting confidence? Do you sound tentative? Does your website verbiage reflect the type of clients you want to get?
Your language impacts business not just in verbal conversations but in branding, website positioning and communicating with your team. Better language strategies will improve your bottom line.
Key words or phrases can undermine your efforts. For example:
This word is weak and apologetic. Using this word introduces doubt and can be seen as passive-aggressive as well. It is not easy to eliminate but it should be. An example: “This is just an idea I had….” My ideas are not all brilliant but they are my ideas and I want to project confidence when I say “I have an idea!” You may think you do not do this often but you do. Everyone does. Try looking at your emails for this word and edit it out and then see how much stronger the email reads.
If you are saying it then you think it. Truth. Be declarative to convey confidence. Instead of “I think this is a lovely choice for your living room because it is so pretty” say, “This is a lovely choice for your living room because the color will tie into the artwork in the living room and you can see both of these elements when you enter the room.” This is a way to protect yourself from criticism. Be declarative and give a reason that relates to the design rationale. When you must use a conditional word or two then use “we expect” or “we are confident.”
It is ok to describe a box that you are delivering from your retail shop as a package, but I cannot abide this word being used to sell anything relating to interior design. It does not reflect well on a luxury service. Who wants to buy a package of hours? Are you selling hours then? Your time? No. You are selling your creative vision based on your skills and experience.
We do not allow this word to be spoken in our shop. We do not discount because we give the best pricing from the start. If you discount then people come to expect it. When you give the best value for your overall proposition you do not need to discount. Otherwise, it confuses people. The price is the price. Now, does that mean we do not have sales? Of course we do. But we still do not call it a discount.
“Obviously” or “Actually”
These are condescending words. I only use them when I am purposely being condescending. Yes, I admit it. People think using “actually” is not a bad thing but it is.
Stop apologizing so much—especially these days. This is usually a problem in your team. They think they are doing the right thing by saying they are sorry several times and they are not, especially when talking to a customer. One time is sufficient.
“Stuff” or “Things”
If you are selling higher-end home accents and furniture or designing a home or space you are not filling it full of stuff or things and you should never refer to it this way either, for god’s sake. Say the name of the item.
We say investment as many do. Why? Because it is an investment. Cost is our wholesale price. This is an important differentiation and is taught when we onboard new employees. We are very specific about what our cost, retail cost (MSRP to us), internet price (IMAP) and client cost mean in our firm. The definitions do not change so that there is never a chance for a mistake. Make sure you define this carefully, as everyone can have varied interpretations.
Lastly, do not use tagline words at the end of your statements in the form of a question. This sofa is perfect, don’t you think? This is an example of a tag line at the end of the sentence asking for reassurance. It does not establish camaraderie like some might think. It weakens the previous statement. Words do matter and the language you use should be consistent with your team. I spend a good amount of time training my team how to phrase issues, problems and introductions to our firm. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of how the language you use affects sales, perception and ultimately success.