Friday, October 8, 2010

Metaphors to sell by

Over the last 18 months have you stopped and noticed how often the news' media brings up how one party or the other has availed itself of an advisor, a word-smithing advisor, who can teach that Party's spokespeople how to achieve its ends through language, through choosing "words that work."

Now stop for a second and think back to all those "lessons" you've been given over the years telling you what to say under what circumstances in order to break down any possible existing or lingering resistance when it comes to your trying to sell something to a potential, existing, or former customer. In other words, how to sell.

Were the words you were taught to use in order to be a better salesman "words that work"? And, did they work long term allowing you to achieve loyal, raving customers, or were they transactional wins that left you having to start from scratch each time you dealt with this buyer? Is there even the possibility that such a difference might exist?

Now stop and think about it for a minute. Have you stopped recently; listened to the language of your sales force and its leaders? How do they frame the exchange of value - product, services, information, etc - that takes place between your company and your intended customers?

(Another complementary issue to contemplate is the fact that the language used by sales, by marketing, your call center personnel, and the other functional areas that are customer-facing may not be the same).

The evidence likely will point to the use of rational argument and battle metaphors. If that is the case, does the language we use when talking about customers, prospects, and our slice of the pie undermine our long-term effectiveness and hurt our ability to form long-term, loyal relationships?

Is the language , the metaphors we use when we sell, unwittingly obscuring a self-reinforcing attitude and set of behaviors that is hurting our long term customer retention efforts?

Are we phrasing our marketing efforts as "campaigns" - miniature battles? When we "penetrate" an account are we blasting through the ramparts in order to take prisoners? and so on.

If we are seeking loyal relationships with our best, core customers, what language should we use, what metaphors should we sell by?

Cognitive scientists such as George Lakoff argue strongly that our metaphors are embodied. Does such embodiment insist that the net new creation of metaphors is highly unlikely, nearly impossible? Let us know your thoughts and let's explore this together.