Long-standing clients are the best gift I receive from being The Phone Lady. Earlier this month I had the privilege of delivering a workshop with an organization that’s trusted me for more than a decade. So fun!
As I was wrapping up the customer-service-focused afternoon, the supervising staff member said to me, “Mary Jane, you’ve forgotten to include my favorite tip. Tell everyone about the word ‘just’.”
So, as my last contribution to this Summer School series, I’m going to follow her suggestion.
What’s so important about the word ‘just’? What other words or phrases can negatively impact our conversations with clients and prospects?
The word ‘just’ is why I’m The Phone Lady. Way back in the late 80’s when I was energetically and naively starting my first business – without any background or knowledge of sales – I used the word ‘just’ in all my outbound calls. It sounded like this:
“Hi David, this is Mary Jane calling from ABC Company and I’m just calling to … .”
While I was able to create great conversations and I sent out lots of information, I generated absolutely no revenue. Yikes!
I was using the word ‘just’ because I was nervous. I was also very aware that my call was interrupting the prospect, and I wanted to be polite. However, when I began listening to recordings of these calls, I realized my prospect didn’t hear nervous and polite. Instead the word ‘just’ told them that my call wasn’t important, that it had no real value.
As soon as I stopped using it, I started making money. This discovery ignited my seemingly endless curiosity about both sales and creating clear communication.
My use of the word ‘just’ made my value statement passive, not polite. Being passive in our communication isn’t always the wrong thing to do. In fact, when you’re faced with de-escalating a highly emotional situation, it can be extremely valuable. But when speaking with prospects and customers, it clouds communication with confusion and misunderstandings.
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines ‘passive’:
- lacking in energy or will
- not taking an active role
- existing or occurring without being active or direct
Not ideal for creating great conversations with your target market … or your family for that matter!
Need more motivation to embrace word awareness?
Here are a few things to consider:
- Passive words undermine your impact. For example, when you use ‘just’ in a sentence, it can be interpreted that the task or request is easy or inconsequential, as my early sales experiences taught me.
- You diminish your value, not only in conversations but also in written communication. Using ‘just’ in emails, for example, could inadvertently devalue the content you’re sharing.
- It conveys a lack of confidence. When you use ‘just’, it can suggest uncertainty or a lack of confidence in your message. For instance, saying, “I’m just wondering if you received my email,” comes across as hesitant or unsure.
- The word ‘just’ might make your communication sound apologetic or defensive.
- And finally, removing ‘just’ makes your communication clearer and more direct, something highly appreciated in business communication.
There are lots of other words and phrases to watch out for, such as “I’m wondering if… ?” and “Could you maybe… ?” and “Would it be okay if… ?” Passive words and phrases both diminish and contribute little to clear communication. Watch out for them. You’ll find that simply leaving them out will improve all your conversations.
P.S. Do you have a word or phrase you’d include in this article? Send it to me or share it in the comment section below.
P.P.S. Next week Tegan Samija returns with the third installment of her Adventures in Sales. Based on our recent conversation, I know it is going to be filled with amazing information. You won’t want to miss it!