Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 29, 2008

Book Review: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, by Dr. Frank Luntz


Imagine knowing the words, ideas, and concepts that influences people to buy, to make a choice, to solve a problem, to commit to your solution. Imagine being able to write or say something that immediately strikes a nerve; that people will remember and act upon. Imagine having the power that moves prospects, coworkers, employees, better yet your spouse, to your point of view.

Few of us in sales and marketing are writers–that is true wordsmiths. Few of us think we have the talent to be. Most of us really don’t aspire to be. But all of us yearn to–we must–influence those around us. We must be able to persuade, to move men and women to make choices, to pick up the phone, to exert more effort, to sign the contract, to buy the product, to commit to our goals, our vision, our solution. And most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, are simply tossing darts, hoping that eventually we will hit on a phrase or a sentence that hits the mark.

Although we may never become a Faulkner or Hemingway, we can learn to use words in ways–or at least we can learn the words–that impact our audience. Instead of writing our typical drivel that hangs together loosely, which we vaguely hope will strike a nerve with someone, we can learn to tighten up our communication by learning what people really react to–and why.

Dr. Frank Luntz has given us a good gulp of these gems. His New York Times best-selling book, Words That Work (Hyperion, 2007), lays out his findings about words, ideas, concepts. Luntz is a linguist that gets it–who can take research and translate it into a format that we simpletons can not only grasp but actually use in our everyday lives.

Certainly, if you’re a political junkie as I am, you’ll love the book for its insights into how politicians influence the electorate. Luntz gives example after example of both the words that have worked and the words that have flopped. But don’t think of Words That Work as just a political book. It is, of course. But it is also a sales book, a marketing book, an everyday life book.

Some have been put off by the fact Luntz is a Republican pollster. If you don’t like his politics, don’t let that stand in your way. He gives positive and negative examples from all political points of view, but more importantly, if you view it as a political book as many have, you will miss the message of the book.

If you really want to improve your ability to communicate–whether in marketing, sales, or changing your kid’s mind, you’ll find a great deal of meat in Words That Work. From “The Ten Rules of Effective Language” to corporate and political case studies to understanding what people really care about, Luntz lays out the words, phrases and concepts that influence and change minds and backs them up from his studies with thousands of everyday men and women from across the country.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] Original post by Paul McCord […]

    Pingback by Book Review: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What … : lowerautoinsurance — August 29, 2008 @ 6:44 am | Reply

  2. This is one of the worst written articles I’ve ever read. This is an example of bad grammar, bad punctuation, bad editing and bad word choice. Sorry Paul, try a 101 class in English, the forgotten language.

    Comment by Vincent Rhomberg — May 18, 2010 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

    • Sorry you don’t approve, Vincent. Try reading one of my books–maybe you’ll like them better. I’d suggest Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals, published by Wiley and Sons and available from any quality book seller.

      Comment by Paul McCord — May 18, 2010 @ 3:29 pm | Reply


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