As humans, we assign meaning to words as we develop our vocabulary. Some words have a greater impact on people because of the meaning and emotions associated with the word. For example, compare the word ‘child’ with ‘baby’ , Which one invokes a stronger feeling? How about the word ‘house’ compared to ‘home’?

Words are tools of the trade for sales people and the concept of ‘hot words’ helps us to consider whether the words we habitually use are having the desired effect. For example, in many sales situations using the word ‘investment’ would be far better than talking about ‘price’ or ‘cost’. Price and cost are generally associated with spending money. When you invest, however, you normally expect to get back more than you pay out.

Negative hot words can be deal killers. When modelling door-to-door sales people I noticed that even the top performers were struggling with the words ‘direct debit’. They were losing about 30% of qualified leads as soon as they mentioned the words – even though the prospect had already agreed to buy and even though the prospects probably already paid for lots of bills by direct debit. By changing the words to ‘One monthly payment through the bank’ rather than ‘One monthly payment by direct debit’. the drop off rate improved significantly – from about 30% down to about 15%. The form had in big letters ‘DIRECT DEBIT’ but that did not seem to have the same impact as hearing the words ‘DIRECT DEBIT’. The alternative words were just neutral. Some sales people looked out for Sky dishes and added ‘just like the way you pay for your Sky subscription’

By starting to notice the effect specific words have on others, we can build up a powerful collection of hot words whilst avoiding specific words that turn people off. Its fun to experiment and see the difference in impact one single word can have.