I have always enjoyed movies that feature gladiators fighting in front of thousands in the Roman Coliseum. In one match, a man armed with a sword and net stumbles and is entangled in the net.

As you might guess, this does not turn out well: The harder he fights to get out of the net, the more entangled he becomes.

It happens to salespeople all the time. Except they aren’t using a real net — it’s their words that ensnare them.

Verbal entanglement happens when the agent tries to resolve a prospect’s concern but the agent does not have the answer, or is trying to address a concern that doesn’t exist. Either way, it is not about meeting the prospect’s needs.

It destroys trust, and the sales agent eventually gets a thumbs-down on the sale.

Have you ever verbally entangled yourself? Stumbled on your own words?

It is a terrible feeling to hear an objection and to know that the next thing we say will determine whether we make the sale or lose it. Ever been there?

We start speaking or responding with no clue what we are saying, but since we are in sales we need to keep talking, right? The thought: If we can prattle on long enough, we will eventually figure out what we should be saying.

Some agents know when they are verbally entangled. They can actually spew forth and at the same time clearly understand that what are saying makes no sense to the prospect.

Here is a simple example of verbal entanglement:

PROSPECT A: "This is a beautiful kitchen."

AGENT A: (Entering the net.) I agree. This is really beautiful. This my kind of kitchen. I like the fact that people will not see your messy dishes when you have guests. And the cabinets — I love these cabinets and the fact that they are white because it gives you more decorating flexibility with your color scheme, which as you know is the color this year, plus you can put your television right here so you can catch the early morning news as you drink your coffee in the breakfast nook. You will, no doubt, spend hours here and love every minute of it. I feel like remodeling my kitchen exactly like this one! (Stuck in the net.)

Can you sense the verbal entanglement? No?

OK. Lets’ try it without the net. Let’s use a sword.

PROSPECT A: This is a beautiful kitchen.

AGENT B: Yes, it is a beautiful kitchen.

PROSPECT A: Well, I don’t cook or entertain, so this kitchen is way too big for me, but it is beautiful.

AGENT B: That’s good to know. Would you like to see some homes with smaller kitchens, or does it matter?

Of these two, which agent do you think is selling the most homes?

Agent A has nothing to say but is discussing it in great detail.

Agent B does not let her words get in the way of what she is saying.

A math question: If the commission is $10,000 on this house, how much do you think verbal entanglement will cost Agent A?

On the way home, Agent A recalls that oft-cited phrase, "All buyers are liars." Agent A finds comfort in the fact that it is not his fault that he is not making sales, and that there’s nothing to learn here.

Agent B is upset, too. She could kick herself for not being a better qualifier. She should have known that her prospect would not do a lot of cooking or entertaining. She decides to practice her qualifying skills.

Suggest scripts to Agent A and you will get, "I don’t like scripts. I don’t want to sound canned."

As an aside, who among you has ever heard a sales trainer say, "You must learn scripts word for word and deliver the scripts in a cold, stiff, canned manner?"

Here’s the thing: We make our living with words. We do use scripts, be they’re ever so improper and lacking in spontaneity.

But if we don’t learn to use our words skillfully, we become verbally entangled and watch helplessly as our prospects, one after another, give us a thumbs-down on the sale or listing.

Given the cost of not knowing what to say, maybe a little script practice can help us all to sharpen our verbal swords and start winning battles that we might otherwise have lost.

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