The single phrase (and every variation of it) that time and time again repels clients away from us and hurts our credibility in more ways than one:
"Let me know how I can help."
When I said this I honestly thought I was being helpful.
Read on for Robert's explanation of what to do instead.
It's amazing how many little quirks of language can have a pretty significant influence on conversation. Two "power tricks" that I like are the use of the words "reasonable" and "fair".
When ending an email about a suggestion that you're not sure will be accepted, it helps to end the email with "Does this sound reasonable?" - because this question somewhat demands a yes. Even the recipient disagrees, they will typically start the answer with "Yes, that sounds reasonable, but I disagree because of XYZ". Saying "no, that doesn't sound reasonable" would force them to escalate the conversation in an unpleasant direction.
This is not a trick to be abused, but it can act as a tiny little nudge in the right circumstances, to help someone who would otherwise hesitate forever to actually make a move. "If it sounds reasonable," their internal monologue hopefully goes, "then let's do it."
"Fair" (and her evil twin brother "unfair") is an even more powerful word. Despite the fact that everyone knows "the world is unfair", people have a strong desire to be perceived as fair (whether or not they are). So, for example, when I feel like a sales situation is drifting out of control, and I'm tempted to simply end the sale completely, instead I give it a firm chance to get back on track by bringing "fair" into the mix. "I believe we're not being treated fairly in this discussion, and I'm not willing to do business on terms that I perceive to be unfair. I'm happy to start the conversation again if we can agree on terms that will be fair on both of us."
I wonder if there's a collection of these conversational power tools (and their brethren, the conversational limp handshakes like "Let me know if I can help") somewhere.
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