Wording Matters

Posted on November 8, 2011


I sold newspaper subscriptions over the phone, or in less flattering terms, I worked in telemarketing.   At one point, to improve my results, I changed one detail about the wording of my pitch.   Instead of saying “Just calling to see if you want to start getting the paper” I switched to an enthusiastic “Would you be interested in that?” I made one change, a simple fix. I went from hitting my quota to well exceeding it.

I know, I used an old school line. Those who train salespeople are rolling their eyes. That’s fine. But by changing the way I spoke to prospective buyers, I changed everything.

When I was taking inbound sales calls working at another company, I encountered a similar scenario. I struggled at first. My sales manager kept putting pressure on me to get my sales up. I was getting hammered about everything. Everything except the first question I asked when people called.

I made a snap decision to change it.  I originally used a hospitable “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?” to a more control oriented “Thank you for calling, can I please have your account number?” All of the idealists, including myself to a degree, would prefer the first question. Unfortunately, my circumstances called for the second question.  And I had a quota to hit.  Afterwards, I rose to the top tier of the peer rankings. And I made this change on my own. Of all the things my sales manager was looking at, this simple detail was overlooked.

This is important in hospitality as well.  When trying to increase restaurant sales, careful diction when presenting specials or menu choices can make or break sales. Specifically, offering a patron more than one choice, even if the second choice is no choice, is a best practice. Good questioning when a patron is placing an order is asking “Are you ready to order” or “Would you like more time to look over the menu?” Using those words allows them to feel in control. With beverage choices, leading with “Would you like tea, coffee, or one of our signature cocktails?” allows you to meet the needs of non-drinkers and drinkers alike, while still putting out an inquiry for a sale.

Saying “Would you like” in general is advantageous over “Are you ready” or “What do you want.” Especially the “What do you want?” Think of the last time someone turned to you and said “What do you want?”  You probably didn’t feel appreciated.

In hospitality and sales alike wording matters. 

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