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Sales Words and Phrases To Avoid

August 19, 2010

Well known psychologists suggest that human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of the words themselves. Borg, John. Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language. Prentice Hall life, 2008. Even though only 7% of communication may be the words you use, it is still important to choose the words you use wisely to convey the appropriate message.

Recently, I witnessed two situations where experienced and accomplished sales people used the wrong words and, completely turned off a potential customer and a potential referral partner.

“You should…”

The first example, I was at a networking event and one of the smartest and most detailed people I know used the words “you should” in response to another person’s venting about certain business issues. The person venting did not even listen to the advice given because he stopped listening as soon as “you should” was said. The phrase “you should” is what my mother used to tell me, when she did not like how I was behaving. “You should go to your room now.” Most people feel condescended (which means talked down to) when someone tells them “you should…” Does the following sound better?

Have you thought about ……?
Have you tried ……..?

Advice

Sometimes people that ask for advice do not really want it. In situations like the above, it also may be useful to really try to assess whether the person venting is actually asking for advice and, whether you have permission to give them advice. A nice way of getting permission to give advice is to say something like, “I have encountered something similar in the past. That is difficult to deal with. Are interested in the way I handled it?”

“Obviously….”

The second example, at a sales training seminar, one of the sales people continually used the words “obviously” and “basically.” Those words can also be condescending. Depending upon the situation, people may interpret this as “What are you stupid?”

“I am just…”

When I was starting out in sales some 35 years ago, I was working for Kraft Foods. My supervisor was with me, when a customer asked me where she could find something. My reply was “I am JUST a salesman.” My supervisor gave me hell. When we use the word “just” we are lowering the value of ourselves and our offering. Sales is an honorable profession, you are an honorable person, and your products add value or you would (not should) be selling them.

As salespeople we must send positive strong messages. From other illustrious sales writers like Alan Fairweather, Larry Prevost, and Dr. Gary Goodman, here are other sales words that “you should” (just kidding), that you might want to avoid using.

Instead Of Consider Using
“I’d like to” “What we’ll do is”
“Perhaps” “What we do”
“I can’t” or “You can’t” “I am unable to because”
“You will have to” “Are you willing to” or “Will you”
“But” “And” or “However”
“I’ll try” “This is what I can do.”

I would love to hear more words and phrases that you personally feel upset you, and see if we can come up with better ways of expressing them. Please send me your comments.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben Himmelstein permalink
    August 20, 2010 8:38 am

    Well said and well written.

  2. August 30, 2010 2:14 pm

    Good article!!! How true. While it is so that 90% or more of communication is nonverbal, it is also true that nonverbal communication is the most prone to misinterpretation! It is so easy to mistakenly make assumptions about another person’s intention or motives from misinterpreting their nonverbal cues. Also, many of the other “phrases to avoid” are very similar to what I call “roadblocks” in my Leadership workshops. Good stuff.

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