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Sales Development

Your Mom Likes I Statements

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


When I first started selling a year ago, I came out hot and won a couple deals. Sales seemed pretty easy.

Oh – that’s right, only 1 person reading this cares. (hi mom)

Me, myself and “I” needs to change

Hot damn that is a hard pill to swallow. It’s not about me – the seller. The client wants to know if this conversation will help them save time, money or make their life better.

The problem when you use “I” statements

You are making the listener do the hard work of internalizing what you’re saying to make it relevant to what they actually care about. Thinking is not easy.

Most sales people talk about themselves to build rapport in hopes of having a meaningful conversation. But having good intentions is not the issue.

No one wants to talk to arrogant sales people

Credibility at the beginning of the sales cycle is important. Instead of telling them you’re the best in the business, share how you add value throughout the sales cycle.

Arrogance is the desire to tell everyone else how good you are. Confidence is knowing you are in fact quite awesome. Unfortunately, you can’t tell someone that. You have to earn it. Every time.

“Arrogance is the feeling of superiority that fosters the assumption that past success will be repeated without the same hard effort that brought it about in the first place.”  ~Coach John Wooden

For a start – change statements into questions. From “In my last job, I had the same problem and this is how I handled it” to “What are your current challenges with your workflow today? How have you tried to fix it already?”

The Solution: Start Actually Listening

“Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked; listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place.”  ~Simon Sinek

1. Be present

When you really listen to someone, their self-esteem goes up because you are valuing their time and opinions. Not only will this help you understand them more, but they will like and trust you more.

We are all busy – but remember multitasking will ruin your brain and career. Give them your full attention.

2. Clarify

To become a great listener, don’t assume you know what they meant by what was just said. Instead ask these 2 powerful questions that may help quickly uncover the real customer-challenges:

  • “Can you tell me more?”
  • “How do you mean?” (careful – not the same as “What do you mean?”)

3. Be silent for 3 seconds

Don’t rush to answer. Pausing helps you really hear what the prospect says. It also helps show you are thoughtfully considering what they just said. With the instant answers from Siri or Google – waiting this long can seem an eternity.

“Sales takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence.” ~ Brian Tracy

4. Paraphrase

Prove that you were really paying attention by not just regurgitating word for word, but putting your own spin on what was said. This is how you build confidence and trust and most importantly, confirm that you actually understand. “Is that right?”

5. Offer your own opinion and ask questions

Internalize what they said and form an opinion. Unlike McDonalds, the customer is not always right. Bring it all together – after listening, ask great questions.

Here’s the change: understand what they’re saying, and ask a clarification question. Form an opinion. Rephrase what they said in your own words. Confirm you understood what they said. Are you in alignment still?

What separates good from great

The best sales professionals really understand problems of who they are speaking with and provide thoughtful solutions. Don’t come in to a conversation with a preconception of what they care about or what the outcome will be.

Become valuable to them first by listening, then by solving their biggest challenges.


Image credits: WikiSimpsons and Shutterstock