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Opinion: Does your word closet need a makeover?

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Have you seen the cable TV show “What Not To Wear”? In one hour, they perform a fashion and grooming makeover on a disheveled woman (you’ve seen the baggy sweats at the mall) or a way-too-casual man (the one wearing a tank top and flip-flops out to dinner.)

The show demonstrates how, with a little education and practice, you can transform from shabby to sensational.

Really, it’s just a few tips – wear nice clothes that fit, accentuate your best features. Put on a little makeup. Stand up and smile.

Hmm. I wonder if we took the same makeover approach to what we say? Imagine if a hidden audio recorder captured your conversations? Yikes!

Suppose we established a few basic communication rules and improved the way we interacted with others? What if we assembled a list of frequently asked questions about our business and crafted helpful answers? What if we selected three tough questions (about price?) and practiced appropriate responses? I wonder what would happen. Let’s educate and practice.

The scenarios
How would you handle these situations?

• Your customer tells you your pricing amounts to “highway robbery.” This happens two days after you completed the job and her sort-of-handy brother-in-law shows up to inspect the work.

What not to say:

“Where was your brother-in-law at 3 a.m., when you called me?”

“You get what you pay for. We don’t charge anything to criticize someone else’s work either.”

Say this instead:

“I wish it were not so expensive to run a professional service company. The trucks, insurance, training, inventory, safety programs, 24-hour phone service and wages for top-notch plumbers – it costs a lot to put this show on the road. Our prices are based on our costs of doing business. I wish we could charge less. We do our best to support our pricing with our superior service and first-rate personnel.

“However, you are upset, and that’s not OK. Our goal is your 100 percent satisfaction.
What would you like me to do so that you can be 100 percent satisfied with our service?”

Listen. Then do it. If she asks for all her money back, do it. Most folks don’t want something for nothing. Maybe 2 percent of the population is downright rotten and would rip you off like that. Most people are just making sure that you are not ripping them off. A little love and understanding goes a long way.

Sure, you could sue them and wind up in court. Or you could learn from this situation.

Debrief the call and look for ways to improve your sales and operational procedures. Do what she asks and a little bit more.

• Your child announces he wants to quit school (job, football team, marriage – you get the idea).

What not to say:

“What is wrong with you?”

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Say this instead:

“I bet you have been thinking about this for a while. Want to fill me in? I promise to listen, and if you are interested, I could share some thoughts with you – ask you some questions. And I will love you whether you take any advice from me. How does that feel to you?”

These words aren’t meant to be memorized and delivered verbatim. The intent is to help you choose better words and allow you to communicate more effectively. Some people get the message by a raised eyebrow. Some folks need to be grabbed by the chin. Play with words that work for you, and customize them to your audience.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant who offers systems for getting focused and organized, making money and having fun in business. Her latest book is “The Bare Bones Biz Plan.” She can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]


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