Speaking is Selling

unknown person using laptop

Speaking is Selling


People ask me: Is speaking with an American accent really that important?


Unfortunately, I can’t give them a hard yes or no to that question.  But I can help them answer the question for themselves.  I ask them, “How important is it to sell what you are speaking?”


When we start a conversation with someone, we have a goal or idea in mind.  It may be a question, a feeling, or a concern.  In the following list, think about what the goal of these people might be, as they talk to each other:

  • Mother >> Teacher
  • Patient >> Doctor
  • Manager >> Team
  • Salesperson >> Customer
  • Citizen >> Officer
  • Defendant/Plaintiff >> Lawyer/Judge
  • Restaurant diner >> Waiter
  • Neighbor >> Neighbor


Each one needs to take an idea in their mind and correctly put it in the mind of the other person.  There are different ways to do this, but the fastest is usually with speech, adding some body language.

Speaking has often been likened to playing catch with a ball.

In these pictures, if your goal is for them to catch the ball, how would you adjust your throw?



boy in blue polo shirt and blue denim shorts standing on green grass field during daytime
woman using eyeglasses and wearing hat
man in blue crew neck t-shirt holding brown round pastry during daytime



In the first 2 pictures, It is probably not very important. But you would still get closer to them if you wanted to make sure they catch the ball.  Maybe you would hand them the ball!

In the last picture, you probably have some expectation that they would catch the ball if they knew you were going to throw it and you threw it reasonably close to them.

But what if it was in a baseball game?  What if it was in game 7 of the World Series?  Then your throw needs to be perfect.

The more important it is to be successful, the less margin for error there is.  And that is the key to answering our original question.

When it comes to speaking English, how important is it to be successful?  How important is it for you to “sell” your idea to the other person?

Let’s go back to our pairs of people that want to have a conversation.

  • Mother >> Teacher
  • Patient >> Doctor
  • Manager >> Team
  • Salesperson >> Customer
  • Citizen >> Officer
  • Defendant/Plaintiff >> Lawyer/Judge
  • Restaurant diner >> Waiter
  • Neighbor >> Neighbor


How important is it to successfully speak English in each of these situations?  Here are some, but you might have some different problems, and that is fine.

  • Not getting the food they thought they ordered at the restaurant.
  • Not understanding that the neighborhood block party was on Saturday and not Sunday.
  • Not selling his customer the item they need for their baby’s bedroom.
  • Life or death.

In some of these, if the correct information is not given to the listener, it is irritating, but not critical.  But in others, it is very important.

So, we see that it benefits the speaker to talk in a way that the listener understands.  If the listener doesn’t understand, they can never know if they like the speaker’s idea or goal.

We can’t ask the listener to change the way they hear, to add words to their vocabulary, or even to add an understanding of a different accent.  And listeners will only have so much patience to try to understand what the speaker is trying to say before they give up.

Is having a big vocabulary the answer?

It is only part of the answer.  There is another problem.

We need to use the proper form of the word and put them in the correct order.  This is grammar.

Maybe you have already seen the confusion on the face of an American when you said something like, “Look at the bird red flying!”  Or, “My car is having the problems.”

So, using the correct grammar is important too.


And then there are accents!


Accents are about the pronunciation of words, and phrases, and how to link them together.  One has an “accent” when they consistently substitute one sound in place of what the listener expects to hear or changes the rhythm or stress of a syllable or word in a sentence that the listener expects to hear.

Many people have learned English in schools in their home country and gotten great grades only to not be understood when they arrive in the US, England, or Australia and started talking to native English speakers.

What is the problem?  It is the “music” of English.

Imagine trying to play a piece of music by Mozart.  You know each note as you see it on the music sheet, and you can play each one in the correct order.  Is that enough for someone to recognize the music you are trying to play?  No.  You need to play it at a speed relative to the other notes.  You also need to play some notes stronger and others softer.

It is the same for a native English speaker.  When you put the correct “music” to the words, they will instantly understand.

I would say that sometimes, the “music” is as important as the correct words or grammar.


So, if a speaker wants to successfully transmit their goal or idea to a listener, they need to:

  1. Use the correct words. (Vocabulary)
  2. Put them in the correct order. (Grammar)
  3. And say them using the correct sounds. (Accent)

Only with this combination can the listener understand the speaker’s real message and see if their goals are mutual.


It has been well documented (and maybe you have experienced) that some “listeners” will make an incorrect assumption that the speaker who doesn’t have all 3 parts of this combination is less educated.


We do NOT support this attitude.

Listeners should put effort into trying to understand the speaker.  For example, we would encourage everyone to take some time and effort to talk to people in a community that they see growing in their area.

But… the speaker has the bigger responsibility in getting their message into the listener’s mind correctly in the language of the community.  It is to their advantage to do so.

A salesperson that needs to sell to make money to put food on his family’s table, will learn all the sales techniques to become successful.  He is not trying to take advantage of his customers, but he is trying to communicate the correct idea to help his customers.

That’s what I mean when I say, “Speaking is selling.”


Every speaker… regardless of where they are from, what language they speak, their level of education, or their social level needs to speak to the listener’s level.


With all of this in mind, do you need to speak with an American accent?  How important is it for you to sell what you are speaking?

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