Weasel Words – know when and when not to use them
I heard a lovely phrase the other day that got me thinking about language in selling and coaching. The phrase is weasel words and they’re used to describe words that are a bit wimpy or weasel’ly which serve little or no purpose, inspire no confidence or have no backbone or credence. I guess like a weasel!
Words such as obviously, perhaps, maybe, absolutely, might, possibly, hopefully. The list goes on. Our language can be full of these weasel words and we need to know the impact they’re having on our customers.
And maybe we’re thinking that their impact is not so good.
I took a cold call recently during a hectic day She was from Pitney Bowes. Lovely voice, pace and manner to start with and after introducing herself the first thing she asked was “have you heard of Pitney Bowes?”
Of course I had – they’re a brand leader in franking machines. I touched one of these working in a building society when I was 16.
And we got talking. She was very un-pushy almost reticent to commit me to action but genuinely probed to find out what problems I had in using the post and stamps with my current supplier.
We agreed that my current level of usage wasn’t enough to make any major cost savings using a franking machine and she decided to keep in touch for when my stamp usage increased.
I came off the phone really liking her and Pitney Bowes and thinking that a franking machine might be a good idea later in the year. She succeeded because she used words such as “we might be able to help you save some money if I can ask some questions”, rather than “we sure can save you money.”
This made her less pushy and pressurising.
So you see weasel words do have their place – when we want to be less pushy or salesey, they can be used to good effect. For example:
“We might be able to bring your costs down here, maybe I can find out if I’m OK to ask some questions”
“Yes I’m confident we can drive your costs down but first can I ask some questions”
So weasel words – use them for a purpose in mind, maybe to be less forceful or pushy, to encourage your customer or coachee to open up just like my friend from Pitney Bowes. But beware if your sentences are full of them as they will inspire little confidence in you or your service, you’ll just sound weasel’ly.