Marketing Monday: Watch Your Tone

I hope you’re enjoying these Marketing Monday posts. They’re fun for me, and they’re a way to help you mix up your marketing strategy a bit.

Today’s topic is one that’s close to my heart. It’s a strategy I hit upon when listening to a real estate salesperson make a cold call way back in 1993. The way she talked — not what she said, but how she said it — impressed me. Ironically, we were supposed to be listening to her words, but it was something else that drew my attention.

It’s an observation that stuck, and one that’s served me well.

Today’s Marketing Move:

Match your client’s voice and tone.

People enjoy being around others who seem to understand them. Part of that perception comes from listening to a person’s intonations, pacing, and vocal patterns. For example, you wouldn’t respond to a client who’s quiet, reserved, and cautious by bubbling over with unchecked enthusiasm. That client would be heading for the exit.

Be enthusiastic, but do so within the measure of the client’s own vocal patterns. Appeal to their own personal style – that conveys empathy and understanding. Likewise in your writing. Mirror to some extent the client’s pacing and tone as they write. Be yourself, but be aware of how they want to be approached –they’re telling you in every syllable.

Why this works:

By matching the client’s own verbal cues, you’ve already met them on a level others might not have thought of. To show you what I mean, let me show you a bad encounter:

We were considering buying a home improvement product. The salesperson showed up all enthusiastic and happy to meet us. He continued that tone for the entire appointment, and he continued to talk about three decibels above how we talked. I kept lowering my voice, trying to give him a verbal hint to stop shouting. No dice. He was oblivious to both the hint and our body language — crossed arms, diverted gazes, stoic expressions. 

What he did wrong — he failed to meet us on our own terms verbally.

I was completely put off, despite knowing he was nice enough and not insulting. But I wanted no part of what he was selling. I didn’t feel he understood me enough to notice we weren’t enjoying the loud conversation.

Did I care that this guy was enthusiastic? Not at all. I cared that this salesperson seemed to have an ON switch with no PAUSE or volume control. He never dialed it back. We were talking slowly and quietly to him, and he was continuing in his own way. We were being forced to go along with how he wanted to do things, not how we were more comfortable doing things.

You don’t want to force a potential client to communicate the way you do. Rather, you want to convey your ability to be flexible by communicating the way they’re communicating.

I had a client once who talked. Quite. Slowly. He seemed almost depressed in his tone. I’m normally like champagne spilling out of a freshly opened bottle — I tend to enthuse all over the place. But with this guy, that would have been a mistake.

So I adjusted my pace. I paused and counted three seconds between sentences. I slowed down. I asked questions slowly.

He hired me.

Would he have hired me if I’d gone into that conversation all fizz and effervescence? Maybe, but he could have been thinking “She needs to take a pill” or “I don’t think she’s listening to me.”

Writers, do you pace your conversations to match those of your potential clients?

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  • Anne Wayman February 12, 2018 at 10:56 am

    About the same as you, Lori, matching and mirroring when we’re on the phone or f2f and the same thing in writing to some degree… so I sound like they do.

    • lwidmer February 12, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      It really works, doesn’t it? It allows them to see you as an equal as well as someone who has the same connection to them. Pretty cool strategy, and it’s not really tricking them, but meeting them where they’re most comfortable.

  • Paula Hendrickson February 12, 2018 at 11:01 am

    In describing that salesman, you could have been describing my overly enthusiastic dog, Sadie.

    Sadie goes into hyperdrive when people come over—jumping, running around, showing off. The difference is, she’s finally starting to catch the non-verbal cues I’ve been trying to enforce since puppy school: firmly say “off” in a low tone and try to ignore her (not an easy feat) until she calms down. But the thing that works best for Sadie, despite her teachers’ best efforts, is addressing her on her literal level. When my brother’s family first met Sadie as a pup, there was no jumping because my sister-in-law, niece, and nephew immediately sat on the floor to meet Sadie. A service guy who’s here every couple of months (and who trained dogs in the military) greets Sadie by bending slightly while reaching down and quietly saying, “Sit.” She tries to jump once or twice, then sits and typically slides down to the floor for a tummy rub.

    My point being: If it works with super energetic, crazy pups, it will work with clients, too.

    • lwidmer February 12, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      It seems training a pup is a lot like training humans to use appropriate behavior! Good example, Paula.