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How Top Account Executives Speak with Clients

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Top account executives set themselves apart by being able to persuade clients and land accounts more frequently than other account executives. Their primary strength lies in the sophistication of their interpersonal skills. All great account executives have two things in common:

  • They communicate with greater impact.
  • They increase their clients' senses of comfort.
Over one-third of the messages one exchanges with others are conveyed through vocals. Vocals include the speaker’s accent, emphasis, inflection, pitch, pronunciation, volume, tone, and tempo. Vocals aren’t the words actually used, but they clothe words in meaning. They make speech come alive and affect clients’ comfort. Top account executives understand this and mirror the vocal patterns of their clients to increase client comfort and decrease client resistance. This article deals with how top account executives use their speech and vocals.

1. Varying the vocals:

A monotone or a singsong vocal pattern is a sure way to bore people. Speakers with little variety in pitch, emphasis, or inflection seem to drone on like robots. Speakers with singsong voices go up and down in inflection or tone in monotonous patterns, typically ending sentences on the upswing. Both of these habits can destroy your performance. Top account executives vary their vocals to emphasize critical ideas and enliven their speech.

2. Ending critical assertions with a drop in tone, not volume:

Dropping tone at the end of a sentence without dropping the volume emphasizes the importance of the idea in that sentence. It also indicates that a new idea is to be introduced in the next sentence. This technique can also be used to signal the end of your dialogue and cue the client to speak.

3. Raising inflections at the end of a sentence only to express doubt or ask a question:

Ordinary speakers have tendencies to raise inflections at the end of sentences when they are not sure of themselves. This habit can unintentionally make a response to a client’s question sound like a question. Top account executives consciously rid themselves of this common habit and consciously control their inflections.

4. Using a relaxed tone to soothe both members of a dialogue:

This is particularly important when meeting a client for the first time. A relaxed tone can help things proceed naturally.

5. Matching pronunciations:

Mispronunciations of words create bad impressions, especially when the client knows how to pronounce the words correctly. On the other hand, repeated correct pronunciations of words that a client mispronounces can also affect the level of trust. Rehearse your presentations and get feedback from your colleagues. When meeting clients, be attentive to the way they pronounce things-tailor your pronunciations accordingly without mocking them.

6. Tempering accents:

A strong accent may not be a bad thing-unless it comes between your client and you. If there are any pronunciations that the client might not understand, it is better to temper them with a neutral accent.

7. Matching the client's volume:

Speak louder than your client and you run the risk of seeming pushy, overbearing, or rude. Speak softer and your openness, honesty, or decisiveness can seem dubious. Try to match your client’s volume as closely as possible within your natural volume zone.

8. Mirroring the client's speaking rate:

Speaking faster than clients can give the impression of being slick or hard to understand. Speaking much slower can lead clients to conclude that you’re either wasting their time or are not honest enough to get to the point more quickly. Varying your speaking rate on cue can be a difficult to master; however, all top account executives develop this skill.

9. Mirroring the client's tone:

Practice the range in which you can vary your tone naturally and comfortably. Try to mirror your client’s tone within your range. For example, if you are a rich baritone and your client has a high, squeaky voice, it is better not to emphasize the contrast.

Top account executives, regardless of their other abilities, have one thing in common-they tune into their clients’ personas better than others can. To achieve this end, they use vocals, speech, and body language with precision.


Deep, Sam and Lyle Sussman. Close the Deal: Smart Moves for Selling. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1999.
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