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Posted: May 23, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Powerful words inspire powerful change

Here are three steps to finding them

Julie Hansen

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary."
Dead Poet's Society

These powerful words spoken by Robin Williams' character in the 1980 movie inspired a group of students to reach for greatness, and more than 30 years later inspire over four million search results on Google.

As an actor, I learned the importance of the language I used to motivate myself and direct my actions on stage -- and it's just as critical in business. Actors are always looking for the strongest choices for their characters. Weak characters with unclear actions and goals aren't interesting to watch. Neither are weak salespeople. The more specific and powerful the words you choose, the more focused and powerful your actions.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 171,476 words in current use, and about 25,000 of these are verbs. That is a lot of words to choose from; however, most of us end up using the same words over and over, even when they have failed to inspire us in the past. If you take the same old actions, nothing new happens. If your life were on stage, the audience would get bored and leave at intermission. If you're in sales, your prospect will get bored and leave you empty-handed.

Simply replacing the habitual words you use with stronger, clearer action verbs can trigger a whole new attitude, stimulate your creativity and open up new opportunities for growth. Here are three steps for finding powerful new action words to inspire you to new actions in 2011:

1. Identify what verbs you are using. Pay attention to that silent dialogue in your head. Do you reflexively pick up the phone to tell a client about your services, or do you make a conscious decision to call and excite them? Do you show your customer how you can save them money, or do you go in armed with the determination to prove it? The way you talk to yourself and the words you choose inform your actions and your delivery.

2. Replace tired old words with powerful active verbs. Sometimes the right word can refocus you and completely change your mental and physical energy. Stuck for ideas? Get out your dictionary or thesaurus. Consider how you might use the following: appeal, assure, compel, elaborate, emphasize, encourage, entice, dramatize, motivate, reinforce, reveal, share, stress, surprise, tackle, validate, verify.

3. Be specific. How would you put this new word into action? For example, how would you emphasize a product benefit or surprise a customer? Here are two examples from common sales scenes:

DEFEND vs. EXPLORE
Scene: A client tells you that a competitor's product appears to be a better choice. Instead of defending your product, try exploring the client's assertion and helping him to arrive at the conclusion that your product is more suitable for his needs.

ASK vs. PINPOINT
Scene: You are interviewing a client to find out what potential objections exist. Instead of simply asking questions and settling for vague, general answers, continue to narrow in on each one until you pinpoint the real source of the objection.

It may take some trial and error before you find just the right words that work for you, but continue to experiment. Try these new actions in the different "scenes" of your life before applying them to important sales calls.

Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv.  The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge.  Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Learn more about workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Julie, I LOVE that article. You're right on about the "verbs" people use and how those verbs get in the way of their success. The dialogue in the head can be a business killer. Thanks for your contribution. By liz wendling on 2011 01 07
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