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Exactly What to Say

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Exactly What to Say PDF Summary

The Magic Words for Influence and Impact

Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing Inc., claims that this book is “the dictionary of business success language.”

Why should it not be?

When, instead of beating around the bush, Phil M. Jones is sharing with you no less than 23 magic words for influence and impact, and teaching you:

Exactly What to Say.

Who Should Read “Exactly What to Say”? And Why?

Ever since Dale Carnegie’s perennial classic How to Win Friends and Influence People was published almost a century ago, numerous books have tried delving deeper into the matter, uncovering (and sharing with the world) so many tips and tricks on how to influence others.

Among them, Robert Cialdini’s Influence is (perhaps justly) the most celebrated one, though Kurt Mortensen’s Maximum Influence and McKintosh & Luecke’s Increase Your Influence at Work have had their fair share of admirers as well.

Much more practical, Exactly What to Say is yet another book that falls in this category; and it’s worth every penny.

About Phil M. Jones

Phil M. Jones is a British sales expert and bestselling author.

Entering the world of business at the age of 14, just four years later, Jones became the youngest sales manager at fashion retailer Debenhams and went on to work with a number of Premier League teams afterward on sponsorship deals.

Since 2008, he’s entirely dedicated to demystifying the art and science of selling, having delivered over 2,000 presentations in 56 countries across 5 continents.

Winner of the “British Excellence in Sales and Marketing Award,” Phil M. Jones has authored five international bestsellers, three of which form the trademarked “Exactly” trilogy: Exactly Where to Start, Exactly What to Say, and Exactly How to Sell.

Find out more at https://www.philmjones.com.

“Exactly What to Say Summary”

“The worst time to think about the thing you are going to say is in the moment you are saying it,” writes Phil M. Jones in the epigraph to Exactly What to Say.

He makes things clear straight away: “This book prepares you for nearly every known eventuality and provides you with a fair advantage in almost every conversation.”

How is that possible?

Through the power of magic words!

Don’t know what they are?

Here’s a definition taken straight from the book:

Magic Words are sets of words that talk straight to the subconscious brain. The subconscious brain is a powerful tool in decision-making because it is preprogrammed through our conditioning to make decisions without overanalyzing them. It works a little like a computer—it has only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ outputs and can never land on a ‘maybe.’ It is strong and decisive and moves quickly. Using words that talk straight to the part of the brain that is free from maybes and responds on reflex gives you a fair advantage in conversation and can result in you getting your own way more often.

So, in a nutshell:

Call it subconscious or adaptive unconscious, there is undoubtedly some part in your skull that is inaccessible to consciousness and, which, nevertheless, influences your judgments, feelings, and behavior;
• This part is extremely powerful, guiding your routines, controlling your breathing while you sleep, and even refocusing your attention whenever something akin to your name is mentioned;
• There are some words that communicate directly to this hidden – and governing – part of every human being;
• These are Jones’ magic words, “tried, tested, and proven to deliver results when applied properly.”

But, enough with the theory.

Let’s see how this works in practice!

Key Lessons from “Exactly What to Say”

1. I’m Not Sure If It’s for You, But
2. Open-Minded
3. What Do You Know?
4. How Would You Feel If?
5. Just Imagine
6. When Would Be a Good Time?
7. I’m Guessing You Haven’t Got Around To
8. Simple Swaps
9. You Have Three Options
10. Two Types of People
11. I Bet You’re a Bit Like Me
12. If… Then
13. Don’t Worry
14. Most People
15. The Good News
16. What Happens Next
17. What Makes You Say That?
18. Before You Make Your Mind Up
19. If I Can, Will You?
20. Enough
21. Just One More Thing
22. A Favor
23. Just Out of Curiosity

I’m Not Sure If It’s for You, But

“I’m not sure if it’s for you, but…” is the best way to introduce any idea to anyone.


Because, at a subconscious level, the listener translates it to “There’s no pressure here… Why don’t you have a look at this.”

• I’m not sure if it’s for you, but this option is available for this week only, and I would hate for you to miss out.
• I’m not sure if it’s for you, but we have plans on Sunday, and, if you’d like, you’re welcome to join us.

(Here and elsewhere below, almost all of the examples are taken straight from the book – possibly with some minor changes here and there.)


As we said above, your subconscious works only along the lines of a “yes” and “no;” and since there’s no “maybe,” if you ask a group of 1,000 people whether they consider themselves open-minded, at least 90% of them would answer in the affirmative.


Because the alternative – “closed-minded” – sounds very, very bad.

Use this to your benefit – if you start a sentence with “how open-minded” you’re shifting the odds of your listener agreeing with you from 50/50 to 90/10.

• How open-minded would you be about trying this as an alternative?
• Would you be open-minded about seeing if we could work together?

What Do You Know?

All people think they know best – that’s how we’re built to think. And if you want to steer a conversation in a certain direction, you have to have control over it.

A great way to achieve this is by moving the other person’s position “from one of certainty to one of doubt.”

Hence the “what do you know?” magic phrase. And now you see why Socrates was considered the smartest person in Ancient Greece.

• What do you know about everything that has changed since (insert event)?
• What do you know about how things really work here?

How Would You Feel If?

We know for sure that people work a lot harder to avoid potential losses than to achieve a potential gain; simply put, nothing motivates us more than losing what we already own.

To overcome this obstacle – or, even better, to use it to your benefit – paint for your listener a future scenario so that you can trigger in him the proper emotions.

• How would you feel if your competition passed you? (the “loss aversion” trigger)
• How would you feel if this decision led to your promotion? (the “if-success” trigger; “loss aversion” in absentia)

Just Imagine

For better or for worse, we are storytelling chimpanzees; consequently, storytelling will always have the power to inspire, influence, and persuade.


Because it creates pictures in the minds of others and because we are wired to just sit back and enjoy the view in situations such as these.

When you were a child, the magic words were “Once upon a time…;” the adult formula is “Just imagine.”

• Just imagine how things will be in six months’ time once you have implemented this.
• Just imagine the look on your kids’ faces when they see you achieve this.

When Would Be a Good Time?

One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is finding the time – you for the others, the others for you.

However, unless you inspire someone to make room in his life for your ideas, you’ll never sell your idea, will you?

A good way to do this is by using the phrase “When would be a good time?”

This magic expression implies that there must be some good time and incites the listener to tell you when will that time be.

• When would be a good time for you to take a proper look at this?
• When would be a good time to get started?

I’m Guessing You Haven’t Got Around To

This has probably happened to everyone at least once: someone promises that he/she will do something and yet he/she hasn’t after a certain period of time.

You know full well that you may ruin things if you’re aggressive, and yet you want to give the person of interest a nudge.

How should you do it?

By pushing for the negative scenario!

It’s the other person’s turn to fix it.

• I’m guessing you haven’t got around to looking over the documents yet?
• I’m guessing you haven’t got around to making a decision yet?

Simple Swaps

Sometimes, just changing one or two words can make all the difference.

For example, swapping the slogan “I’m blind: would you give me some money?” with “It’s a sunny day, but I can’t see it…” has yielded more than positive results.

You do the same.

For example, instead of asking your audience “Do you have any questions?” ask them “What questions do you have for me?”

That way, you’re in control.

You Have Three Options

When it comes to decision-making, we are notoriously susceptible to being fooled by both our emotions and our reason.

Also, we tend to suffer from something called analysis paralysis when we have to choose from a number of options.

A good way to take control over situations such as these is by offering only three options; afterward, just ask the other person “Of those three options, what’s going to be easier for you?”

That’s a magic word combo!

Two Types of People

If you want to prompt a near-instant decision, then frame the options within the “two types of people” narrative.

“The second someone hears, ‘There are two types of people in this world,’” writes Jones, “the little voice in their head immediately wonders which one they are, and they wait with bated breath to hear the choices.”

• There are two types of people in this world: those who leave their personal financial success in the hands of their employers and those who take full responsibility and build their own futures.
• There are two types of people in this world: those who resist change in favor of nostalgia and those who move with the times and create a better future.

I Bet You’re a Bit Like Me

The reason why you can’t convince strangers to do anything is that they are strangers: we are evolutionarily preprogrammed not to trust people who are unlike us.

The tweak?

Just say “I bet you’re a bit like me” whenever you want to furnish a closer connection to the other person.

• I bet you’re a bit like me: you enjoy working hard now, knowing that it will pay dividends in the future.
• I bet you’re a bit like me: you’re a busy person who’s always juggling to get everything done.

If… Then

You remember the “if… then” sandwich from your childhood:

“If you don’t tidy your room, then you’re going to be grounded for the weekend.”

Or, even more universal:

“If you don’t eat all your dinner, then you’re not going to get any dessert.”

It worked, didn’t it?

Well, now it’s your turn to act like your mother; ok, a bit like her.

• If you decide to give this a try, then I promise you won’t be disappointed.
• If you give me a chance in the role, then I am confident you will thank me later.

Don’t Worry

The best way to deal with a high-stress scenario?

Just convince the other person that nothing’s out of order at the moment and that you have everything under control.

You need no more than two words to do this:

“Don’t worry.”

• Don’t worry. You’re bound to be nervous right now.
• Don’t worry. I felt just the way you feel right now before I started, and look at me now.

Most People

Do you know what most people are afraid of?

Being the outcasts, the recluses, the castaways; in a nutshell: being unlike most people.

That’s why you can get the attention of most people by simply telling them that what you need from them is precisely what most people would do.

Most people should follow.

• What most people do is complete the forms with me here today. You then receive your welcome pack, and we get you booked in for a launch.
• Most people in your circumstances would grab this opportunity with both hands, knowing that there is almost no risk.

The Good News

This one you know from practically every second film: even if the good news follows after the worst news, they always tend to bring some relief.

The formula is even more powerful if there is no bad news.

Everybody wants some positivity in his/her life, and “The good news is…” is the magic word to infuse it!

What Happens Next

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, conversations may come to a halt due to the indecisiveness of your talking partner.

The thing to remember for situations such as this is simple: “The easier the question, the easier you make your decision.”

So, make the next step by saying something along the lines of “What happens next is we’ll try to fill out your details; speaking of: In terms of registering your details, what is the best address for you?”

What Makes You Say That?

Sometimes – or, let’s face it: oftentimes – you’ll face not only indecisiveness but also objections and protests.

“I haven’t got the time now,” “I would, but I don’t have the money,” “I’m pretty sure your idea is great, but I’ve heard many better ideas,” etc.

The worst thing you could do in situations such as this is to respond with a counterargument; the best thing: be inquisitive.

• The customer says, “I need to speak to somebody else before I make a decision about this.” You say, “What makes you say that?”
• The customer says, “Really, I don’t have all the money right now.” You say, “What makes you say that?”

Before You Make Your Mind Up

Moving from a “no” to a “yes” is all but impossible; however, moving from a “no” to a “maybe” and from a “maybe” to a “yes” is conceivable.

The best way to make a step in the right direction concerning the first section of this two-part journey is by using the magic word “before you make your mind up.”

It inspires the other person to rethink his/her decision – and, in many cases, he/she will.

• Look, before you make your mind up, let’s make sure we’ve looked at all the facts.
• Before you make your mind up, wouldn’t it make sense to speak to a few more people about the difference this could make for you and your family?

If I Can, Will You?

Sometimes, the objections coming from the other side are a list of reasons why the thing you want to is unlikely to happen.

“You have the power in these situations,” says Jones, “to remove the barrier by responding with a powerful question that eliminates the other person’s argument.”

And that question is: “If I can… will you?”

• If I can pick you up and drop you off at home, then will you be able to be ready for seven pm?
• If I can match that price for you, then would you be happy to place the order with me today?


Influencing other people’s decisions is all about making it easier for them to decide – of course, in a way that suits you best.

For example, if you are in a grocery store unable to choose between buying four or eight apples and the seller asks you “Would six apples be enough for you?” you’ll probably answer “yes” because of the presence of that enough.

Suddenly – four apples seem too few.

Just One More Thing

According to Phil M. Jones, the greatest negotiator he has ever met is the television detective Columbo, played by Peter Falk for many, many years.

His MO?

Just at the moment, his suspect was relieved and sure that he had gotten away, Columbo would turn back to them and say, “Oh, just one more thing.”

Now that his suspect was more vulnerable than ever, Columbo could ask him/her the question that really mattered to him.

Introduce a Columbo moment to your pitch by inviting your client to an event at the moment of the transaction or asking them to sample a product.

As we’ve learned from Columbo – it works every time!

A Favor

Just like Phil M. Jones, we are also pretty sure that there have been many situations in your life when someone could do just a little something for you and make your life immediately easier.

Have you ever tried saying to him/her something along the lines “Perhaps you could do me a small favor?”

The worst possible answer to that question is a conditional “yes,” aka “Depends what it is.”

Just Out of Curiosity

Sometimes, people say “no” – and are adamant about not changing their minds.

Do you:
a. give up?
b. try another magic word?

The correct answer, of course, is b, and the magic word is “just out of curiosity.”

That phrase makes rude and obnoxious things sound soft and fluffy – and that’s exactly what you need if you want to become a professional mind-maker-upper.

• Just out of curiosity, what is it specifically you need some time to think about?
• Just out of curiosity, what is it that’s stopping you from moving forward with this right now?

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“Exactly What to Say Quotes”

When introducing a new idea, start with, ‘How open-minded are you?’ This will naturally attract people toward the very thing that you’d like them to support. Everybody wants to be open-minded. Click To Tweet The preface ‘When would be a good time to...?’ prompts the other person to assume that there will be a good time and that no is not an option. Click To Tweet A simple change of wording puts you in control. Swap the phrase, ‘Do you have any questions?’ with the improved, ‘What questions do you have for me?’ Click To Tweet By prefacing things with, ‘The good news is...,’ you cause people to face forward with optimism and zap any negative energy out of the conversation. Click To Tweet In every set of circumstances in which you involve yourself in the decision-making process, you have the power to influence the actions of others. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

According to Seth Price, bestselling author of The Road to Recognition, Exactly What to Say is a masterclass in the art of influence, persuasion and generating top-producing business results,” “a must-read for anyone looking to be more persuasive in their business and personal lives.”He’s right on both accounts: great as an introduction for beginners, excellent as a constant reminder for the experts, Exactly What to Say is the book you’ve been looking for in the case, you know, you don’t know what to say.

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