At times I’m known to have a certain tone, and not one I’m especially proud of. Especially when it’s delivered in the heat of the moment. But tone is also relative. When I use “that tone” with my son, for instance, he knows I mean business. This is hardly the tone I take in my professional dealings, but it does get the message across.
Although we think of tone as verbal, it can also manifest itself through facial expressions and body language. When an officer pulls a driver over for a ticket, his first words and demeanor set the tone for what follows. In other words, the stage is set and we react accordingly. We need to make sure that our tone consistently sets the right stage for our business dealings as well.
The wrong tone can completely turn off a customer. Being demanding, overbearing, loud, intrusive, ungrateful, condescending, sour-faced, disheveled or disorganized automatically come to mind. There are varying degrees of any of these, but any degree of negativity does little to create trust or make connections. Not only will a client not respond in the fashion you desire, but you may even get the dreaded blow-off.
The tone of your opening statements should come off as confident and organized. If you have an accusatory or interrogatory tone, how much progress can you hope to make? It’s easy to see when others fail at this, but how do you self-evaluate and ensure your tone is in check? How is your message resonating or landing on your clients? Remember, it’s not always WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.
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I’m always amazed at how slight nuances in tone can guide our thoughts away from the real topic at hand. How often have you conversed with someone who had the wrong demeanor, and rather than concentrating on what he or she was saying, thought “I can’t believe he/she has taken that tone with me?”
Think about this when you’re trying to influence clients. Are you motivating them to see themselves using your product or service because you have specifically shared HOW your product or service will fill a need that you uncovered? There is a fine line between telling them what they need versus communicating the what and more importantly the WHY to satisfy their specific pain points. In one case you’re posturing to what you feel their need is; in the other you’re matching their communicated need. Trust your clients’ tone and response to show you which side of the line you are on. Learn to listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
If you’ve nailed it, you’ll either have earned the sale or will have a few concerns or objections to address leading to the sale. If not, well, you know the drill. You’ll be faced with either apathy or a blowoff. Whether you are grinning or spinning based on your prospect’s response, it’s now your turn. What tone will your response carry? Oftentimes, your response is simply a reflection of that of your client — so make sure you take the right tone from the beginning and make that great first impression.
Recognizing your own tone allows you to respond more effectively to a challenging tone. These things take practice. But understanding the role tone plays in the business world today will go a long way toward achieving your goals. Step back and take a hard look at your approach. Then ask yourself: How are you tooting your tone?