Language Hacks of a Good Salesperson

“There’s figures on this… it’s 70% how you look, 20% how you sound, 10% what you say.” – Comedian Eddie Izzard

Conventional wisdom tells us that how you say something counts at least as much as what you’re saying. But how do you unlock the linguistic magic that will turn a dry or unimpressive pitch into a sure-fire sale? The key to good sales is, and always has been, language. A good salesperson must do whatever it takes to make full use of their language skills: research their native tongue, learn Spanish, even “hack” their own speech patterns. Here are some of the most common linguistic “hacks” that can transform your language into more effective sales for your promotion, product, or even your website.

Anaphora and Epiphora

“Food is cheaper! Clothes are cheaper. Steel is cheaper. Cars are cheaper. Phone service is cheaper. You feel me building a rhythm here? That’s because I’m a speech writer – I know how to make a point.” – Toby Ziegler, The West Wing

Anaphora is the technique of repeating words at the beginning of sentences to draw attention to them. Epiphora is the same technique, but utilizes repetition at the end of sentences.

Why it works: It works because repition works. Repetition, and the rhythm at which the repetition is presented, helps emphasize the repeated phrases and increase the chance that they’ll be committed to memory. Perhaps the most famous example of epiphora comes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Caesura

“To err is human; || to forgive, divine.” — Alexander Pope

A caesura is usually a pause in a line of poetry or music. A caesura can be used in everyday language to add dramatic weight to a sentence or phrase.

Why it works: Caesura leverages the art of silence. Silence can bring emphasis to a point as powerfully as repetition. Rather than engaging in a non-stop stream of talking in which you add extraneous “um,” “ah,” and “well” phrases to fill in dead air, cultivate your language to craft those moments into dramatic pauses. The lack of junk “filler” phrases may also improve how people perceive your confidence and intelligence.

Hypophora

“You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.” — Winston Churchill

One of the simplest language hacks you can employ, hypophora is the technique of asking a question, and then answering it. Is that really all there is to it? Yup.

Why it works: This one’s pretty simple. Questions will naturally arise during a proposal or sales pitch. What better way to show you’ve already thought of everything than asking a person’s question before they do? It demonstrates confidence and competence.

Polysyndeton

“It’s got awesome security. And the right apps. It’s got everything from Cocoa and the graphics and it’s got core animation built in and it’s got the audio and video that OSX is famous for. It’s got all the stuff we want.” — Steve Jobs’ 2007 Macworld Keynote Address

Polysyndeton is the technique of using conjunctions to chain items together into a series or list. Polysyndeton comes from the Greek “bound together,” and that’s exactly what it is — binding a series of statements or words together.

Why it works: It’s simple: people love lists. There’s a reason “top ten” lists are one of the most-recommended marketing techniques for websites — chaining items together like this gets people’s attention.

Parallelism

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy

Parallelism, or parallel construction, is a close cousin to polysyndeton, except instead of relying on a conjunction to join ideas together, each idea is presented with the same grammatical structure. In the example above, from John F. Kennedy’s speech, each idea is presented as “[verb] any [noun].”

Why it works: Parallelism combines the emphasis of repetition with the organization and resonance of polysyndeton and lists. It creates and builds a rhythm and builds listener (or reader) interest.

Will using these techniques lead to a sure-fire sale? There’s no such thing. But if you learn these techniques, practice these techniques, and perfect these techniques, then you just might find out for yourself — they really work.
Leslie Collins is a long time writer for Pimsleur Approach. She has learned to speak Spanish through the program and enjoys traveling, coffee, discovering new ways to communicate, and hikes with her golden retriever.

Meta description: How you say something matters, and smart business owners use this to their advantage. Learn the language hacks and rhetorical devices you can use to help your business grow!

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Leslie Collins
Leslie Collins is a long time writer for Pimsleur Approach. She has learned to speak Spanish through their program and enjoys traveling, coffee, discovering new ways to communicate, and hikes with her golden retriever.
Leslie Collins

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