What we say and how we say it matters. It matters in life, in families and in business- especially in sales. Sales talk is very semantics driven. By the way, the classic Hollywood big talking salesperson is an archeological artifact, a dusty relic, now banished to the tombs. Today, salespeople have to be articulate but not glib, concise not flowery, evidence based not barrow-boy spivs.
Japan presents a challenge with developing salespeople. Invariably, they are the undereducated graduates of OJT or On-the-Job Training. This will work for certain technical themes but not for the broader art of sales. Attempts by foreign corporates to rectify this problem are often laughable. Bosses who don’t speak Japanese or don’t have a sales background or even worse lack both, send in the English speaking instructors from the corporate APAC hub, to dole out the sales medicine. It is always snake oil.
Sales training for salespeople must be based on the reality of selling to clients in the client’s native language. If the clients are Japanese, then the training has to be done in Japanese, because what we say and how we say are so culturally and linguistically specific, there is no way you can satisfactorily train this in English.
This doesn’t stop people from trying though. The snapper is when they add to their woes by using the HR people from Singapore or Hong Kong, the usual hub centers in Asia, who invariably are smart, sharp, rapid fire Chinese speakers of accented English. They facilitate from the global corporate sales textbook, but sadly English language comprehension levels max out at 60% in the morning sessions and drop to 10% to 15% by mid-afternoon.
Even worse there is no instructor understanding of the subtleties of the Japanese language or the opportunity to coach the sales roles plays in Japanese.
Let’s stop wasting time and money and get this done properly in the language of the client. There are plenty of sales fails anyway. The first big fail is lack of preparation and anticipation of the issues facing the client. Because of this the language being used is vague and often meandering. Salespeople should complete a mini-SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on the industry and the company, to flag potential problems requiring solutions and direct the discussion to the elements of the greatest interest to the buyer. Of course, we need to be asking good questions, to find out what the buyer needs and using SWOT allows us to get to the key points faster and builds more credibility.
Blocker words are another killer of sales success. This is directly related to a lack of discipline on the part of the salesperson. They go shooting their mouths off, without engaging their brains, and in the process out pour words that scupper the deal. What are these blocker words – some common ones include: "sort of", "a few", "kind of", "sometimes", "more or less", "about", "some". All vagaries to which no useful sales evidence can be attached. We should speak with authority and certainty, because clients want our full belief and commitment, so that they can trust what we say is true.
Words like "price", "cost", "contract" are also poor selections. These words create an image of money going out like a flood, but no value coming back in. We should only be speaking of "value" and "investment" instead. Your parent told you to be careful about signing a "contract", so let’s sign an "agreement" instead. Simple semantic switches in emphasis, but these make a big difference to what clients hear.
Salespeople also talk too much. They love people and they love to chat. Too many words begin to pop up into the conversation, which add no value to the sales process. Being concise is the key mantra here. Pare back the dialogue to only words which are relevant, project value, are laden with evidence and which build trust – everything else has to go.
Getting people to hand over their hard earned cash is hard enough and using poor communication skills makes it even harder. We need to train people properly and monitor their sales conversations to make sure they are achieving the maximum success possible.