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June 2008
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What are you implying?
Saying a lot by saying very little
Recently, a client and I visited one of my favorite restaurants. Because there was no hostess at the door - the place was shorthanded that day, as we were soon to find out - the bartender stepped up to greet us and seated us at a table. He said our waiter would be with us shortly. He returned later to ask, sincerely,  "Has Jim been over to see you guys?" When we said yes he replied, "I just wanted to make sure you were being taken care of." Pause. Smile.

Let's look closely at this exchange. Part one ("Has Jim been over to see you guys?") showed, "I care, and I possess professionalism and integrity." Part two ("I just wanted to make sure you were being taken care of.") said, "Check me out. I care, I possess professionalism and I'm a person of integrity." Sincerely asking, "Has Jim been over to see you guys?" implied that this guy cared. But following it up with, "I just wanted to make sure you were being taken care of," tainted his good deed. Telling us why he asked amounted to patting himself on the back. It would have been more powerful had he simply seemed to care whether our server had been over.
I teach a 12-week sales training course. We begin with some important groundwork: a session each, on integrity and professionalism. At the heart of these sessions, we learn that we must demonstrate that we possess these qualities ... without saying so aloud. Imagine meeting a salesperson who said, "I'm different from all the rest. You should work with me because I possess integrity and professionalism." Icky, right? Wouldn't you want to reply, "Actions speak louder than words, buddy!" Think about some of the salespeople you have interacted with - the ones with integrity and professionalism. Did they ever have to say it ... or did it just show?

When I was a sales consultant, often my clients would look at their watches and wonder where the time had gone because we were having so much fun. Some would turn to me and generously ask, "Are you doing OK on time?" My reply? "Actually, my next appointment is not until 2:30, so I'm all yours for the next 45 minutes." Aside from feeling important and valued, they were also subtly reminded that I worked by appointment. If they had shown up unannounced, they'd likely call ahead next time and make an appointment to assure that I set aside enough time for them.

As you read the following scenario, I invite you to consider examples from your own life and how you can say a lot by saying very little.

Imagine placing a credit card order over the phone. As you near completion of the call, your representative hits "submit" and says, "OK, I'm going to stay on the line with you while we process your payment." In an industry that seems to find just about any excuse to place you on (indefinite) hold, this feels refreshing. Three short seconds later, your rep says, "OK, we're all set." It took the rep three to four seconds to say those words and five to eight seconds is all it should take to process a credit card payment after hitting "submit."

What's my point? With this one statement, "OK, I'm going to stay on the line with you while we process your payment," the rep has:

  • Reminded you how often you get placed on hold and made you feel he and the company are different
  • Made a friendly gesture
  • Impressed you by completing the transaction/process more quickly than expected
  • Made you feel smart, important and valued by showing that he enjoys - or at least doesn't mind - your company
  • Given you a sense of inclusion by telling you what he was doing
  • Allayed your fears about identity theft

All that from one simple statement? You bet!

Slow down a bit and consider your own words. What are you implying and what impact is it having on others?

All the best!


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Useful Tip:
Wrong Numbers

When a stranger calls you by mistake, instead of saying "Wrong Number!" ... ask the caller what number they were trying to call. Half of the time, it's your number ... which means they are about to call you again!

Steve Dorfman 
Steve Dorfman
Driven To Excel, Inc.
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What are you implying?
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