February 1

Can Your Voice Cost you the Sale? 2 Common Vocal Habits that Distract Buyers


You work hard to get an opportunity to present your solution to a prospect.  You have a great message to deliver. The last thing you want is for your audience to misunderstand it or discount it because of how you sound.  Can your voice cost you the sale?  The unfortunate answer is, yes.  Your voice is a powerful instrument with the potential to bring your message to life or cause it to fade into oblivion. Finding your best selling voice is critical today when competition is tight and people are distracted.

The way you use your voice can affect the attention, perception, and ultimately opinion of your audience. Studies show that 38% of what we communicate to another person comes from the sound, the tone and the quality of our voice. Your voice takes on even greater significance by magnifying bad vocal habits during remote or phone presentations.

Here are 2 ways your voice can cost you the sale by detracting from your message and creating an often undeserved negative impression.  If you recognize yourself in any of them, I include some simple steps you can take to get find your best selling voice!

2 vocal habits that distract buyers (and what to do about it!)

1. Monotone Mark

Like a song played entirely on the note of C, Mark delivers every word of his presentation at the same level. Good news and bad news sound exactly the same and audience tune-out danger is high. His message is strong – but if no one’s listening, what does it matter?!

Many presenters use a very limited section of their full vocal potential. With prospect’s shrinking attention spans a monotone voice can easily cost you the sale.

How to break the monologue habit:

  • Run scales. Think of your voice as floating on a scale and do some vocal exercise that run up and down the scale. Your goal is to increase the number of notes that you can play, both in the upper and lower end of the scale, thus broadening your range.
  • Read Dr. Seuss. Reading children’s books out loud in as animated a voice as possible delights your kids and exercises your voice. Doing so stretches your voice and helps you to find all of the different colors and shades you have access to.
  • Add variety. Your words come alive with meaning when you use variety. Look for natural places to add variety. For example, when you want to call attention to a particular point, consider changing your intonation, volume, or provide emphasis.  Although it may seem unnatural at first, with practice it can be part of your natural repertoire. Read more about breaking the monologue habit here.

Speed-talker Sara

Sara’s prospects are impressed by her natural enthusiasm — and her seeming ability to speak at length without oxygen. Unfortunately, this steady stream becomes too much for most listeners, and they shut down, often well before Sara gets to her main point.

Once audience members get lost, they tend to give up and tune out. Pausing is important as it allows your audience the chance to catch up. Remember, you may have given a presentation dozens of times, but this is the first time your audience members are hearing it, so slow down and give them a chance to take it in and digest it.

How to put the brakes on speed-talking:

  • Speak with punctuation. When you’re finished with one thought, put a mental period on it. Let the impact of what you’ve said stick by pausing before moving on.
  • Leave space for your audience. Rapid, nonstop speech is exhausting for your audience — and you! So take a beat and allow your prospect a chance to respond occasionally. And bonus:  Your prospect may actually tell you something you wouldn’t have otherwise found out if you’d kept speaking
  • Mix it up. You don’t have to turn into a slow talker, but try alternating your quicker pace with a slower pace throughout your presentation. Doing so gives your audience a much-needed chance to catch up.
  • Prioritize. Rushing can be the result of trying to cover too much in too little time. Instead of trying to squeeze everything in, prioritize sections so that you can leave out the less important ones.  To find out what to do when your prospect is short on time, read here.

Dont’ let your voice cost you the sale.  The way you use your voice, the number of notes you play, and when go a long way toward keeping today’s attention-challenged audiences attentive, interested, and ultimately moved to take action.


AttributionPhoto courtesy of woodleywonderworks Some rights reserved


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  1. Julie,

    I’ve got the opposite problem…”Slow Talking Sam!” I recently moved to the South from California, and the speech styles couldn’t be more different. Instead of trying to slow down rapid fire delivery, I’m faced with a few sales team members whose words ooze out with the speed of molasses in winter, and I find myself wanting to gesture for them to finish already or finish their thoughts myself! Apparently it’s one of those Southern things. But we don’t have time for languid delivery in a limited presentation time. Have you ever run up against this problem, and do you have any thoughts on how to address it?

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Thanks for your note and interesting dilemma! There are a lot of cultural nuances to communication and speed is certainly one of them. If your sales team is presenting to other southerners, I hesitate to recommend they speed up too much as they will ot “match” their prospects very well. if it’s really cutting in to valuable presentation time, I would suggest 1) making sure their words are concise and to the point. Often time is wasted in over-explaining or ramping up to make a point, and 2) find ways to vary their speed. Speaking a the same pace, whether fast or slow, can get very boring for an audience. Suggest they speed up when they are covering something less important or transitioning between topics for example.
      Best of luck and let me know how it goes!

      1. Hi Julie,
        Thanks for your suggestions! I think they’re valuable in any circumstance, not just this one. There’s nothing that will put a client to sleep faster than a pedantic speaking style. As it turned out, other firm leaders that realized Slow-Talking Sam’s languid delivery was going to be problematic in a presentation for a large civic project in which we were directed to “summarize our entire submittal” in 15 minutes…a challenge under the best of circumstances! While Sam was a key team member, we ended up limiting his speaking parts and using him primarily for QA. We ended up winning the job against some stiff competition, but it was a wake-up call for future presentations until I can work with him enough to overcome what he doesn’t feel is an issue (although even his fellow Southerners agree).

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