I want to talk about something we are all accustomed to in sales, objections. But, not the ones from your client. I’m talking about the ones that you throw into conversations, the objections that you make to your clients, right to their faces. Believe me, you object to your clients, to your teammates, to your family, in conversation, all the time. What’s dangerous about this is that you likely don’t even know you’re doing it.

I’m talking about that sneaky little word that’s only three letters but packs a punch strong enough to stop your clients’ thoughts, words, and budgets in their tracks. Even the most effective communicators falter over this word, which, when placed in a sales or business conversation negates what you say, devalues what your client is saying, and acts as a handbrake to both building momentum in a conversation and building rapport in relationships.

Yikes. Not since l-o-v-e love has such a small word delivered so much impact when spoken. The word I’m referring to is ‘but’. Just like other filler words such as ‘um’ and ‘like’, we’ve allowed ‘but’ to enter our vernacular without truly understanding the negative impact it brings to our conversations. With our language growing increasingly lazy and ineffective, it’s more important than ever to understand these negative impacts as well as conversation tools that we can implement to avoid them.

The meaning of the word ‘but’ is to introduce a new statement into a conversation, one that counters a statement already made by someone else. By saying ‘but’ you’re saying ‘Imma let you finish but you’re wrong’. Not exactly the best path to building rapport and nurturing an environment secure enough to extract meaningful information. Both crucial to successful sales conversations.

The change in our language over the years has resulted in a tendency to ignore the true meaning of the words that we use because we’ve become so accustomed to using them incorrectly. Take the adopted usage of the word ‘literally’ as an example. By using the word ‘but’ in conversation, we fail to acknowledge the statement, feelings, or thoughts of our conversation partners and draw attention back to our statement in a way that diminishes. The impact of objecting an idea, particularly in sales and especially to a client, remains as impactful as always despite the laissez-faire way that we action it. In other words, saying you’re wrong in response to a clients statement in plain words carries the same impact of saying ‘but’ and introducing your own.

Because ‘but’ has crept into our conversations, we often don’t feel the weight of the objection like we would if we were to explicitly say it. In sales conversions, the weight of the objection will almost always be felt exclusively by your client or prospect leaving you blissfully unaware and creating more work for you off the back of it in order to correct course. After all, you’ve just devalued and disagreed with them, driven a wedge between you and their values, and signaled that you see the world differently. If you’re after the path of least resistance, saying ‘but’ is not that path.

With agreeance, a building block for rapport, and rapport the foundation of successful sales relationships, objecting a clients statement creates friction within a conversation. It causes an innate defensiveness within your client, and puts at risk the opportunity for you to extract any further information from being shared. Not a great tool if your role is to move a conversation forward and extract meaningful information where and when possible.

Now that you’re aware of the risk the word ‘but’ poses in your conversations, here’s a handy hack to ensure that you avoid it moving forward. Introducing the ‘yes, and’ rule.

The ‘yes, and’ rule is the principal rule of improvisational theatre or improv. Improv, at its core, is a way of thinking that ensures conversions remained buoyed, that all contributions in a conversation are valued and that momentum is created and nurtured. In improv, as in sales, your role is to ensure all conversations move forward, in partnership with both parties regardless of what cues or barriers are given and whether or not opposing information is shared.

Saying ‘yes’ shows acceptance of the information provided to you. It validates and accepts the information passed to you – instead of saying ‘you’re wrong’, the ‘yes’ says ‘I understand’, ‘I value’, and ‘I validate’ what you say. The ‘and’ then allows you to build on that idea, information, or statement made and drives the momentum of that conversation. The beauty of the ‘yes, and’ rule? It allows for agreeance even if you are offering a counter idea.

Swapping your ‘buts’- for ‘yes, and’s’ – ensures that your conversations maintain momentum, validates the statements of your clients, teammates, and family, enabling rapport, trust, and a safe space for more meaningful information to be shared.

No buts about it.

At EQ Sales we leverage improv for selling success. If you want to learn more about how we can incorporate improv practices into professional development or events get in touch hi@eqsaels.com.au.

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