Say What? Pay A Buck!

For four years, I served as a vice-president for a Dallas-based marketing and advertising firm. One of my responsibilities was to teach monthly sales training classes with up to 50 students at a time. Our product was very, very expensive, and by no means an easy sale. The clients were very particular, as they were owners of large companies accustomed to doing business with salespeople with a highly skilled level of communication.

During our monthly training sessions, one skill that was taught, practiced and encouraged was the ability to more effectively communicate by using the proper vocabulary. Words were eliminated that created a negative connotation in the subconscious, as well as foul language and words considered vulgar. “Think before you speak”. “Increase your connection with your client by speaking properly.” “Listen, ponder, and then respond.” They were taught not to adhere to the old school thinking of “mirror what your client does,” that “if the client uses vulgar language, you should too.” Our findings were the polar opposite of this theory: if the salesperson took great care in their use of language and exercised a professional vocabulary, the client responded favorably. Most felt their salesperson would take great care of their account, which naturally resulted in more sales.

Many of the students asked what constituted improper language. I would usually reply, “if you have to repent about it, don’t use it,” or “what would your parents say to you about that word?” or, “how would you feel about your child repeating it?” These discussions usually came up in role-playing situations. In many cases that would settle it, yet I knew that these examples were just part of bringing students to a higher awareness.

I knew there had to be a better way to increase the awareness and make superior vocabulary a habit. After a lot of thought and attempting various exercises, I began the “Say What? Pay A Buck!” program.

Say What? Pay A Buck!

It’s very simple. At the beginning of each training, I would detail the highlights of the program. “No vulgar or foul language is allowed, no negative connotations, or negative words.” If the guideline was violated and a student was caught by a classmate, the student would Pay a buck! Each training participant was given two choices:

  1. If they didn’t want to participate, they must state the intention upfront and be excluded, no harm no foul.
  2. The “fine” (bucks) collected would be paid out in one of two ways: the class could reward each other for superior vocabulary during the training or, at the end of the week, the fines would be donated to a charity.

The results were interesting: I never had anyone decline to be part of the Say What? Pay A Buck! program, and about 90% of all the training classes would donate the fines to a charity.

The program then expanded into a “situational awareness” campaign, which placed emphasis on certain situations that would arise during the training. In turn, the guidelines of the Say What? Pay A Buck! program produced some significant skills resulting in each class graduating with a higher purpose and confidence level.

So out comes the “Buck Bucket,” which is a large one-gallon glass jar with a handle and lid, deposited in the middle of the training room (a constant reminder during the weeklong training). In case you were wondering, the “best” class using this system paid nearly $75.00 — in one week!

Now that the basic idea has been explained, here are the specific guidelines for the Say What? Pay A Buck! program:

Words subject to a Buck:

  • Any vulgar words
  • “Yeah”
  • “Yeah but…”
  • “But”
  • “Whatever”
  • “Problem”
  • “Try”
  • “Possibly”
  • “Maybe”
  • “I dunno”
  • “If”
  • “Hey”
  • “Hey you”
  • “Can’t”
  • “I’m busy”
  • “Um…”
  • Add your own

Situations subject to a Buck:

  • Complaining
  • Negativity
  • Bad attitude
  • Justifying
  • Laying blame
  • Arriving late for the training
  • Being late from a break
  • Not following instructions
  • Add your own

Words Subject to a Reward:

  • “Appreciate”
  • “Respect”
  • “Agree”
  • “Okay”
  • “Recommend”
  • “Because”
  • “Yes”
  • “And”
  • “Challenge”
  • “Congratulations”
  • Add your own

Situations subject to a Reward:

  • Makes requests instead of complaining
  • Gets it
  • Great presentation skills
  • Great communications skills
  • Displays extraordinary listening skills
  • Sets good examples
  • Accepts responsibility
  • Going out of the way to help others
  • Displays out-of-the-box thinking
  • Has written goals (and proves it)
  • Admits mistakes
  • Add your own

Here are some examples of how the program would work:

  1. In communicating with a potential client during a role playing situation, the salesperson continually used the word “but.” Pay a buck! for the word “but,” yet what do we replace it with? Usually the words “and” or “yet” would certainly suffice as a replacement for “but.”
  2. A student would exclaim to the class that he/she has a “problem.” Pay a buck! for the word “problem.” Replace “problem” with “challenge.” A negative connotation is attached to the word “problem”, while “challenge” has a positive connotation. This is a much better use of our vocabulary and demonstrates a higher level of communication and expression.
  3. A student walks into the training class and registers a “complaint.” Complainers suffer the consequences and Pay a buck! They are asked to replace the complaint with a request. This obliges the student to abandon the downward spiral of negative communication and make a specific request of what they want (or see improved).
  4. During the middle of a role play, the student makes a mistake and immediately justifies his/her actions or attempts to lay blame on another. They must Pay a buck! for justification or laying blame. The proper action would be to accept responsibility and move on.
  5. During any communication, a student uses any foul language. Pay a buck!

Other guidelines:

  • Make sure that all participants agree, in advance, to participate in the Say What? Pay A Buck! program
  • Some of my clients may feel that the Say What? Pay A Buck! program might be a little too much for their group. (This rarely happens). If this is the case, take it in a different direction. Purchase Monopoly money or funny money for your group and initiate the program. Distribute ten “bucks” in $1 bills to each person at the beginning of your training or event. It will be very useful in watching the Buck Bucket increase in size by the hour. Remember, the more bucks paid, the more significant the increase in awareness.You can purchase inexpensive phony $1 bills from:
    Creative Presentation Resources, Inc:
    1.800.308.0399 | www.presentationresources.net
  • Utilize an on-site Gratitude Board or Acknowledgment Board for verbal rewards. A simple flip chart would suffice for this and post the results on the wall of the training room.
  • If you’re not using funny money, your “bucks” can also be used for:
    • Student drawing – one winner for the training class
    • Training class party – have pizza and drinks delivered to the class
    • Quarterly party for all participants & their spouse/partners
  • My personal preference for donating “bucks” is to this wonderful charitable organization:
    Angel Flight South Central | http://www.angelflightsc.orgWhat is Angel Flight?
    If you or someone you know needs non-emergency transportation to medical treatment but cannot afford it, or if they cannot fly on public transportation for health reasons, or if public transportation is not readily available in your area, contact the AFSC Office for information about Angel Flight and it’s ability to assist. It is their goal that no one forgo treatment because of cost or inaccessibility to their required healthcare facility.
  • Watch out for the class “Buck Cop.” This person is usually a participant that is more concerned with “catching” a violator than paying attention to the training curriculum and content. Each class has one, so make sure they stay focused on the task at hand and do not disturb the training.

Say What? Pay A Buck! can be easily implemented into the mainstream of any company or corporation. It can be a regular method of operation, something new and different that most will embrace. Remember, many corporations are void of personal development – they’re spending all of their time on professional development. The Say What? Pay a Buck! program touches both sides of a person’s development.

The subconscious is a very powerful tool that our clients, family and friends carry as well as ourselves. Take to heart the information shared throughout the Say What? Pay A Buck! program. Rid yourself of foul language. Be sensitive to what you say and how you say it. Keep your awareness at a heightened level until superior vocabulary becomes a habit and a mainstay of who you are and what you represent.

Say What? Pay A Buck! is an inspiring blueprint for what we can all do to rediscover the values that our teachers and parents have taught us since we were children – communicate with the utmost of professionalism and vocabulary with our friends, family, neighbors and clients. This type of practice places you on the less crowded path; you separate yourself from the masses and all whom you communicate with will see the distinction between you . . . and the rest


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