Conversation can thrust a sale forward or stop it dead in the tracks.
The words you choose often determine the direction you’ll go.
Some words and phrases will build bridges. Others will build walls.
Here are 33 to avoid, why they’re conversation-killers and better things to say.
Scripted or not. Cold or warm. Whatever kind of prospecting calls you make, they need to be on-point. One wrong word, phrase or sentence, and you might hear “click.” Avoid:
‘Is now a good time?’
Reason: Yes, it’s polite to ask for permission, but it’s likely there’s never a good time to chat for prospects. So now you’ve opened them to the option to say “no” and hang up.
Better: “I’m glad I caught you” or “It’s good to speak with you.”
‘I hope you are well’
Reason: When salespeople prospect, they don’t usually know the people they’re calling. That makes it difficult to express sincere concern for their well-being.
Better: “I’d like to talk to you about …” or “I suspect you’re busy, so I’ll be brief.”
‘I want to learn a little more about your company’
Reason: Salespeople have the means – online, through social media and networking – to know quite a bit about any prospect’s company. Not doing the research first is a serious sales gaffe.
Better: “We help companies do XYZ, and I have a quick question to easily find out if this is a fit for you as well. How do you currently (handle an issue your solution fixes)?”
‘I thought I’d reach out because …”
Reason: Remember, a prospecting call needs to be more about the prospect, and less about the salesperson. So benefit needs to lead.
Better: “You’re on my radar because …”
‘Are you interested in …?’
Reason: Whether you ask if they’re interested in a feature or benefit, it’s a close-ended question. If they aren’t interested in the feature or benefit you have in mind, you’ve ended the conversation.
Better: “You value X, and this has proven to do Y.”
‘Are you the decision maker?’
Reason: Salespeople put both the prospect and themselves in a peculiar situation with this statement. Prospects won’t likely tell you the decision-making process in their companies, nor want to admit if they don’t make the final call. And if the answer is “no,” you’ve hit an early wall.
Better: “How does your team finalize a buying decision?” or “Beside you, who else weighs in on decisions like this?”
Once you’ve made it past any awkward prospecting moments, it’s imperative to keep the conversation in a positive direction. To do so, don’t say:
‘So I assume you …’
Reason: Whether you assume how they’ll use the solution, which feature they value most, or that they’ll balk at the price, you’re putting your thoughts in their mouths.
Better: “To clarify and be certain we’re on the same page …”
‘Do you have the budget for this?’
Reason: This suggests you haven’t done your homework (salespeople should have at least a little bit of an idea on spending capability) and you assume the prospect hasn’t done his due diligence of weeding out what he can’t afford. Now’s the time to focus on differentiating yourself.
Better: “What do you value most in your relationships with vendors?”
‘That sounds just like …’
Reason: Prospects believe they and their challenges are unique. You don’t want to make them feel like you’ve heard their story a hundred times by referencing another story.
Better: “That must be frustrating. I’ve helped people in similar situations, and I think I have some ideas that can help in your unique situation.”
‘Oh, I hear that a lot’
Reason: Similar to the previous statement, this one makes prospects feel like a face in the crowd. It also shuts them down from sharing more about themselves and challenges. Instead, salespeople want to encourage more self-discovery.
Better: “Can you clarify what you mean by that?” or “Why?” or “Can you tell me a little more about how this affects you?”
‘Let me look your information up in the system’
Reason: Prospects and customers don’t want to hear that they’re little more than a number. Even if you don’t have all their information at your fingertips when you (or they) call, fake it.
Better: “I have your information right here. Let’s check it out.” Note: It’s OK to pause here while pulling up the account because you make it sound as if you have their information at hand and are just scrolling through it.
In the door! Don’t squander the face-to-face with any of these phrases.
‘I’m just checking in’
Reason: You aren’t. As a salesperson, you have an agenda. It’s likely to move a sale forward. Don’t waste prospects time with checking in. Give them value.
Better: “I want to follow up on our conversation last Tuesday and answer any last questions you have. Then we can finalize the next steps for moving forward.”
‘Let me email you some information’
Reason: You’re email will be trashed. Sales is about transferring enthusiasm. You share stories, experiences and results to build credibility and momentum. A screen message can’t replace that.
Better: “If you’re in front of a computer, I have an example we can walk through together that will really solidify what we can do together.”
‘Let me be honest with you’
Reason: This phrase or its sinister sister, “To tell you the truth,” implies you haven’t been honest until that point. Instead, you want to fill your conversations with truth, and prove it with action – doing what you say when you say you will.
Better: “As you can tell …” or “As you’ve heard …”
‘If you still have a few minutes …’
Reason: If you have more information you think is valuable to prospects, include it, rather than sound passive and let them opt out. Be assertive and focus on several key points so they’re asking for more. You aren’t asking if they want more.
Better: “Now that I’ve learned so much about you and your needs, and laid all this out for you, tell me what else you’d like to learn.”
‘I don’t want to waste your time’
Reason: Whether it’s said because you’ve realized your solution isn’t a good fit for the prospect, or you want to seem courteous of their time, just saying that sentence wasted time. It’s better to get to your point.
Better: “It doesn’t look like this the right (time, circumstances, reason) for us to work together.” Or “I will (walk you through the demo, show you the cost analysis, compare models, etc.) now.”
‘If I can solve your problem, would you buy today?’
Reason: You don’t want to corner prospects into decisions. You want to help them recognize benefits and create value so they’re eager to buy. Qualify them properly. Don’t ask for a sale too soon.
Better: “Based on what you’ve explained, let me recommend three solutions we can provide that would help you achieve your goals.”
‘I guarantee the lowest price’
Reason: A competitor will almost always undercut you. You’re also forcing the customer to think on price, not value – and it’s more powerful to sell on value.
Better: “What you’ll gain is (benefit A, benefit B and benefit C).”
‘I can only do this for you’
Reason: If you promise special treatment – which is a thinly veiled lie in a statement like this – now, your prospects will expect it time and again. If it’s not special treatment, don’t say it is.
Better: “What I can do is …”
Presentations could be the most natural time to avoid saying anything that turns off prospects. After all, it’s your most rehearsed action (although, it shouldn’t sound scripted). Still, any presentation can take unexpected turns that might lead you to say the wrong things such as:
‘A major firm in our industry, says we’re …’
Reason: This phrase, and its alternatives – “A prominent study shows we’re …” or “Research proves we can …” – are weak. They leave credibility questions. Share hard facts, and name the sources.
Better: “The 2019 Analyst Guide rated our …” “According to the Industry Standard Study, we’re …” “JB Business School did an independent study on services, and found ours was …”
‘We will reduce costs and increase revenue’
Reason: This phrase, and its alternatives – “We will increase productivity and decrease downtime” “We have the highest quality” – are ambiguous. Again, salespeople need to give hard facts, exact numbers, credible sources.
Better: “Our line has helped XYZ company, which has similar operations to yours, reduce costs by 15%.” “We helped 10 companies like yours cut downtime by between 12% and 23% last year.” “In a survey of our customers, 92% said our product exceeds their quality standards.”
‘You should know this about the competition’
Reason: You can talk about the competition, even compare yourself to them. But don’t bad-mouth them.
Better: “There’s quite a bit of competition in this area. I’m honored that you’re considering us, and I’m sure you’ll see that we offer more benefits and value than the others out there.”
Almost there. But a few wrong words and you can still derail a sale. When it’s time to discuss closing, avoid:
‘I’ve been selling for 36 years and …’
Reason: There are a couple of reasons to avoid this (and the similar statement, “I’ve sold 864 of these”). First, you’ve said “selling” when you should be “helping” or “partnering.” Second, customers should feel like they’re special, not another notch in a long career or sale No. 865.
Better: “You’re facing some big challenges now. I can see areas where I can help.”
‘Let me check with my manager’
Reason: Prospects see the salesperson as the authority and decision-maker (just like you see them). You don’t want to break the trust and credibility you’ve built by invoking the “let me check with my manager” line.
Better: “That’s a great question. Can I dig deeper into it and get back to you?”
‘What do I have to do to get your business?’
Reason: Oh, this sounds desperate. Furthermore, if a salesperson doesn’t know the answer by now, he’s done a poor job of understanding prospects’ needs.
Better: “Here’s how we can move forward – either (Call to Action A) or (Call to Action B). What works best for you?”
‘What if I said …?’
Reason: If a salesperson opens a sentence like this, you’re obviously going to say what you’ve implied you won’t say. That’s kind of sneaky and manipulative. Be straightforward if you’re negotiating or changing conditions.
Better: “Based on what you’ve told me and my research, your X costs $5,000 a week. We can do better” or “Most of our clients reduce costs by 7% within four months, and I’m confident we can do the same for you.”
‘We need to close this deal’
Reason: You might need to close the deal to reach some kind of goal. But customers don’t need to close. Instead, when they hear this, they think the salesperson is inexperienced, desperate, not interested in what’s best for the customer or all of these.
Better: “Let’s look at our next steps now.”
‘Think about it and let me know’
Reason: You likely won’t hear from the prospect again. People work better with details and deadlines. They will put off the necessary actions for decision-making when the realities of life and work set in (which is immediately).
Better: “Whats’ your timeline for making the decision? Let’s set our time to follow up on that now. What time is best on …?”
‘Let’s get to this contract’
Reason: The problem with this phrase is mostly centered on the word “contract.” It makes customers feel trapped by rules outside of their control. In fact, one study found when the word “contract” is used, close rates are 7% lower.
Better: “Let’s talk about an agreement” or “We can work on an agreement that suits your specs.”
‘That’s not on me’
Reason: Alternates to this take-no-responsibility statement:
- That’s not my department
- I don’t handle that
- They’re supposed to take care of that, and
- It’s not my problem
Better: Take responsibility for making it happen, whether you execute the task or not. Say, “I can get in touch with Cindy, who handles situations like this, and she’ll help you.”
‘Call me anytime about anything’
Reason: You might think it’s a good idea to be available for customers all the time for anything. But it’s not because no one can realistically fulfill that big of a commitment. It’s better to let customers know they have a team available to help them.
Better: “You can contact our service team anytime at (number, email and/or social media handle). We have a fabulous team available around the clock.”
‘I don’t know’
Reason: You’ve established yourself as the expert throughout the sales process. This simple admission – although honest – can hurt continued credibility.
Better: “That’s a great question for my tech support team. Let me see what they would propose and I’ll get back to you shortly,” or “Franny in customer support is an expert in that. I’ll check with her to give you the best solution.”
‘It’s our policy’
Reason: Salespeople shouldn’t hide behind “policy” when they feel they can’t do something customers request (unless the rule is in place to keep customers safe). Instead, focus on what you can do and avoid the word “policy.”
Better: “What I can do is …,” “For your safety, what we’ll do in this situation is …” or “Let’s work on getting this resolved to your satisfaction.”