I’m not sure if it’s for you but…



Reading time:

6 minutes

I came across the book Exactly what to say by Phil M. Jones, finished listening to it in 40 min and I loved it.

I think everyone will benefit from it.

Just imagine knowing exactly what to say in every situation?

Could be a sales conversation.

When you’re debating with someone.

When you’re trying to win friends and influence people.

The book is essentially a tactical playbook version of Influence by Robert Cialdini.

There are a certain set of words – Phil M Jones calls them “magic words” – that when humans hear them, we can’t help but respond and feel a specific way.

You’ll find that most in most cases, the goal of using any of these magic words is to help someone make a decision.

Here’s the cheatsheet of all the magic words mentioned in the book:

Magic WordsPurposeDescriptionExample
I’m not sure if it’s for you, but…Introduce something to someone without fear of rejectionPut the positive thing after the “but”. Makes listener think “you might want to look at this”“I’m not sure if it’s for you, but have you ever thought about trying yoga for relaxation?”
Open-mindedIntroduce a new ideaGet people to support your idea because everyone wants to be open-minded“How open-minded are you about trying a new restaurant this weekend?”
What do you know?Overcome “I know best” mentalityMove other person’s position from one of certainty to one of doubt.“What do you know about how things really work here?”
How would you feel if…?Motivate people to make a decisionCreate conditional future scenarios to get people to move toward the good news or away from the bad news.

Greater contrast better.
“How would you feel if you got the promotion and moved to the new office?”
Just imagine…Help someone make a decision first in their mind.Helps the person picture a positive future or benefit.“Just imagine the impact this would have.”
When would be a good time?Makes scheduling easier.Prompts the other person to assume that there will be a good time and that no is not an option.“When would be a good time for us to speak next?”
I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to…Non-judgmental reminder.Reminds someone of an unfinished task without sounding critical.“I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to finishing that book I lent you?”
Simple swaps
To get closer to a decision and guaranteed answerTurn an open question in to a closed one so that you avoid the dreaded “I need some time to think about…”Instead of “Do you have any questions” at the end of a sales presentation, use “What questions do you have for me?”
Simple swaps
Get additional information effortlessAsk for the answer without asking for permissionInstead of “can i have your [phone number]”, use “What’s the best number to contact you at?”
You have three optionsSimplifies decision-making.Presents clear choices with a favourable one as the last option.“As I see it, you have three options: look for other solutions and [list struggles], stay exactly the same, or give this a try and [potential dream outcomes]. Of those 3 options, what is gonna be easier for you?”
Two types of peopleHelps the person make their mind upPresent 2 polarising choices and make one of them stand out as the easy option“There are two types of people in this word: those that judge something before trying, and those that try something and then judge based on their own experience”
I bet you’re a bit like meGet other person to comfortably agree with you.Build rapport and connection“I bet you’re a bit like me and prefer a quiet evening over a loud party.”
If… then…Sets up a logical conclusion.Links an action to an outcome.“If you don’t eat all your dinner, then you’re not getting any dessert.”
Don’t worryReassures and calms.Alleviates concerns or fears.“Don’t worry about the presentation, you’ll do great!”
Most peopleNormalizes behavior or choices.Shows that a behavior or decision is common.“Most people find that starting their day with a workout boosts their energy levels.”
The good news is…Provides positive information.Shares an optimistic update or beneficial detail.“The good news is that we’ve received approval for your project!”
What happens next is…Clarifies the next steps.Provides clear instructions.“What happens next is you’ll receive an email with all the details to get started.”
What makes you say that?Handle objections without being confrontational.Respond with this question when they give an objection.“I haven’t got the time”

“What makes you say that?”
Before you make up your mindMove someone from a “no” to “maybe”Encourages consideration of additional information.“Before you make up your mind, would you like to see some more options?”
If I can, will you?Remove objections.Respond to their objections with a powerful question that eliminates their argument.“If I can pick you up and drop you off at home, then will you be able to be ready for seven pm?”
EnoughMake decision on quantity or level of serviceDrive recipient to answer the direct question and “yes” becomes the easier option.“Would 8 apples be enough for you?”
A favorGet help.Ask for help after someone says “thank you” to you because they feel they owe you something.“Can I ask a favor?”

And if you’re asking for a referral follow up with

“You wouldn’t happen to know…”

“… just one person…”

“someone who, just like you…”

“… would benefit from…”
Just one more thingA down sell. So you don’t leave a conversation with nothing.Introduces a final simple idea on your way out.“Just one more thing, don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave.”

Other use cases:
Asking them to sample a project.

Asking them to commit to a small order.

Inviting them to an event

Introducing them to someone you think they should know

Asking them to do something for you.
Just out of curiosityFind their objectionAsk a direct question without sounding rude or obnoxious“Just out of curiosity, what is it specifically you need some time to think about?”
Bonus: BecauseProvides justification.Offers a reason, making statements more persuasive.“We need to leave early because the traffic will be heavy later.”

I tested one of the magic word phrases on Kane:

Next morning, after Kane started the book, he sends me this:

I’m gonna try an incorporate these magic words in my day to day conversations.

Ethically of course!

p.s. I love “I’m guessing you haven’t gotten around to…” gonna be my go-to for supervisors – my phd homies can relate!

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