How much business is your language costing you?

Tuesday 7 March, 2017 | By: Andrew Griffiths | Tags: small business, smart business, business language

A few years back I was going through a particularly stressful period in my business. I had plenty of work, in fact I had way too much work, trying to manage it all was leading to me spending ridiculously long hours chained to my desk.

I would go into a tirade about how busy I am, how stressed out I am, how crazy my life had become and so on. Without realising it at the time, this outburst had become an automatic response whenever someone asked me how I was.

Then something strange started to happen, business died. My company was built on word of mouth referrals, and these had suddenly stopped in their tracks. Clearly something major had gone wrong and I needed to do something about it straight away.

I bit the bullet and started to call each and every one of my referring contacts to find out what was wrong. I assumed that the clients they had referred where not satisfied with the work my company was doing and this had in turn caused the referrer to lose confidence in us. But what I found out was actually much different to that.

The first conversation went something like this:

“Hi Bob, Andrew Griffiths here. I notice that you have stopped referring new clients to our company and I was wondering if there was a problem of some sort. Perhaps we failed to meet your client’s expectations. I am terribly sorry if that is the case.”

Bob’s response was “Andrew nothing could be further from the truth. We love to refer people to you because we know the advice you provide is always spot on. But you're right, there is a problem.

Busy man on phone 532047556

Every time we catch up and I ask how you are, you tell me how busy you are, how stressed out you are and how overwhelmed you are, and I really don’t like to see you like that. So I made the decision that I would not refer any more business until things calm down in your world.”

Now after making about a dozen more phone calls, I realised that most of my referrers had made the same decision to stop sending me business as an act of kindness! Their kindness almost sent me broke, but the real culprit was my language, my words, my automatic script.

Fortunately I was able to resurrect my referral network relatively quickly, but it cost me a lot of money and I could easily have gone broke. From that point on I needed to be very careful about the language I use. So I changed my script into something a little more proactive and a little less sad and sorry:

“Hey Bob, great to see you. Yes, business is very good, we have a lot of exciting projects underway. Everything is working well and we are always looking for new, high calibre clients exactly like the ones you kindly refer to us.”

This new script is my response, regardless of how busy I may actually be and my business always has a stream of quality leads.

With the realisation of how my old script had impacted so dramatically on my business I became much more aware of other scripts that I blurted out without any real thought to the damage they could be doing. I also became much more aware of other people’s automatic scripts and the damage they were doing to their businesses.

We all need to be careful of the language we use, it might just be costing us more than we could ever imagine.

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Andrew Griffiths

About the contributor:

Andrew Griffiths is Australia’s leading Small Business author with 12 books published and currently sold in over 60 countries. He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading minds in the Small Business space. He is a regular columnist on out of New York, a Small Business commentator for CBS, a Mentor in the highly acclaimed Key Person of Influence programme and much more. Touting his own unique style of street-smart wisdom and inspiration, Andrew really is one of a kind. Website:



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