Do you listen to politicians? Probably not much. You would sell less if you treated your customers the way politicians treat their constituents. Let me point out what you need to avoid doing.

Words mean different things to different people.

Well, you have to admit that you probably were hoping for change when you listened to the themes in President Obama’s presidential campaign. You might not have expected the change he delivered.

That’s one of the listening problems you need to avoid.

Listening is hard. Customers hear what they want to hear. With words that are gray words or open to interpretation, like “hope” and “change,” you think you know what the speaker means. It’s what you think he means. As you have found out with simple words like hope and change, that’s not the case.

Avoid using gray words.

If you’re in sales you have to remember that using gray words with your customers makes those words open to interpretation. Gray words are broad categories with words like fewer, a lot, always, or never. Gray words can be comparative words like more, less, better, or worse.

More AllBusiness.com:

The Top 25 Home-Based Business Ideas
10 Websites Where You Should Have Your Company Profile Listed
25 Frequently Asked Questions on Starting a Business
50 Inspirational Quotes for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

Be sure to ask for clarification if your prospects or customers are using these words. Your customers are probably not interpreting these gray words the way you intend if you’re using them.

Misleading statements are dangerous.

It’s never a good idea to mislead people. Remember President Obama’s words regarding insurance, “If you’re happy with what you’ve got, nobody’s changing it.” The newspapers reported that the White House advisors were against that statement because it was misleading. Of course it was. The president didn’t have to worry. His time in office is protected. You have no similar protection.

All that you’re selling in sales is your credibility. When you make misleading statements you don’t have the job security of elected officials. While voters can vote those who mislead out at the next election, you will lose your next sale or worse. Worse is when customers talk about their lack of trust in you. Word travels fast and other prospects will lose trust in you. Try selling in that environment.

Make it easier for your customers to listen.

State things positively instead of negatively because it’s easier to understand. Use metaphors and similes that compare two dissimilar things when you are trying to explain a difficult concept. Use visuals to help your listener listen by involving more than just one sense. Be sure your verbal matches your nonverbal. Your prospect will believe the nonverbal instead of your words if there’s a disconnect between the two.

Smart salespeople make it easier for customers to listen. Better listeners are more satisfied customers. I would not want to be a politician today with all their unhappy customers.

Maura Schreier-Fleming is president of Best@Sellinga sales training and sales consulting company. She works with business and sales professionals to increase sales and earn larger profits. She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results and Monday Morning Sales Tips. Maura focuses on sales strategies and tactics that lead to better sales results. She speaks internationally on influence, selling skills, and strategic selling at trade association and sales meetings, demonstrating how her principles can be applied to get results.