A few years back I was going through a particularly stressful period in my business. I had plenty of work, in fact I had way too much work, trying to manage it all was leading to me spending ridiculously long hours chained to my desk. During this time I developed a bad habit that cost me a lot of money.
During the course of the day, if anyone asked me how things were going I would go into a tirade about how busy I was, how stressed out I was, how crazy my life had become and so on. Without realizing it this outburst had become an automatic response whenever someone asked me how I was. It didn't matter whom I was talking to--I did the same automatic response to anyone who would listen.
Then something strange started to happen, my business died. My company was built on word of mouth referrals, and these had suddenly stopped in their tracks. Clearly something major gone wrong and I needed to do something about it straight away.
I bit the bullet and started to call each and every one of my best referrers to find out what we had done wrong. I assumed that the clients they had referred where not satisfied with the work my company was doing and this had in turn caused the referrer to lose confidence in us. But what I found out was actually much different to that.
The first conversation went something like this:
"Hi Bob, Andrew Griffiths here. I notice that you have stopped referring new clients to our company and I was wondering if there was a problem of some sort. Perhaps we failed to meet your client's expectations. I am terribly sorry if that is the case."
Bob' response was "Andrew nothing could be further from the truth. We love to refer people to you because we know the advice you provide is always spot on. But you're right, there is a problem. Every time we catch up and I ask how you are, you tell me how busy you are, how stressed out you are and how overwhelmed you are, and I really don't like to see you like that. So I made the decision that I would not refer any more business to you until things calm down in your world."
Now after making about a dozen more phone calls, I realized that most of my referrers had made the same decision to stop sending me business as an act of kindness. Their kindness almost sent me broke, but the real culprit was my language, my words, my automatic script.
Fortunately I was able to resurrect my referral network relatively quickly, but it cost me a lot of money and I could easily have gone broke. From that point on I needed to be very careful about the language I use. So I changed my script into something a little more proactive and a little less sad and sorry:
"Hey Bob, great to see you. Yes, business is very good, we have a lot of exciting projects underway. Everything is working well and we are always looking for new, high caliber clients exactly like the ones you kindly refer to us."
This new script is my response, regardless of how busy I actually am. It took a while to reprogram my automatic response--but I am very glad I did.
With the realization of how my old script had impacted so dramatically on my business I became much more aware of other scripts that I blurted out without any real thought to the damage they could be doing. I also became much more aware of other people's automatic scripts and the damage they were doing to their businesses.
I think a lot of people in a sales role turn on their automatic script and the minute they do we sense it and disconnect. Any repetitive situations tend to create the same scenarios.
We all need to be considered with the language we use. It might just be costing us more than we could ever imagine.