Using the Right Language in Selling

Salespeople are familiar with the rather tough experience of being rejected. They ‘cold’ call a prospect or meet with a new client and begin to present. Ten seconds in, they hear the dial tone or are met politely with a “Not at the moment thank you.”

When you work in sales, being told “no” comes with the territory. But the better you get, the more often you are going to hear “yes.” A part of getting better involves learning what you should — and more importantly — should not say during your pitch.

It happens a lot, someone in sales unwittingly utters a turn of phrase that is a total client turnoff. Here is a typical example:

“This is an innovative product, built with the most cutting-edge technology,” or, “I chose this unique product just for you.

If you want to surpass the beginner mishaps and skip to the part where you land more business, then a simple cheat sheet will do you good.

There are certain words that all salespeople should stay away from – we’ll pick out the worst examples here below with customers’ likely thoughts in italics:

  • Quota – not my problem
  • Close (the deal) – not my problem
  • Just checking in – sales jargon
  • Trust me – why?
  • I’m working for you here – really?
  • I don’t usually do this but…- so why do it now?
  • If you act now, I can throw in…- too much pressure
  • What do I need to do to…? – too pushy
  • What’s it going to take to…? – too pushy
  • Wouldn’t you agree? – presumptive

Even worse than the above these words are downright dealbreakers. (Think, as they say in Hollywood, “You’ll never work in this town again.”) They are bad enough to not only elicit an eye roll from your prospect, but also take you backwards. You could be approaching the finish line and then shoot yourself in the foot with these, and not finish the race. So, absolutely stop using them:

  • Mate
  • Pal
  • One-time offer
  • Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
  • Do me a favour
  • I’ll be honest with you
  • I like you, so here’s what I’m going to…

Now that you know what not to say, here is a better way to communicate your message.

Words like “best,” “unique,” “innovative,” and “cutting edge” were rendered hollow a long time ago. Besides, what do they mean, anyway? They are purely subjective. The message is that if you can’t prove these claims – don’t claim them.

Instead, use objective terms that obviously mean something. For example, if your product or service is truly unique to your company, use the word “proprietary.” If you feel your process or approach is worth noting as special, use the word “different,” and explain why you are using it.

“I love to be under the gun,” has never been said by any customer. So, forget the futile dialogue about one-time offers or once-in-a-blue-moon promotions that suggest someone needs to act now. It may make for good office banter back at the office, but it’s off-putting to customers. Instead, concentrate on the deadline your customer has, get buy-in to the preceding/prerequisite steps that can help your customer make a decision, and affirm a multi-checkpoint roadmap on how you can make this work for both parties.

When time comes to remind them of a checkpoint, you can say “Hello [name], to ensure the success of your implementation by [deadline], we would need to wrap up [open item here] this week. Let us know how one of the periods below looks to iron out…”

Moral of the story: Find ways to continue to be a valuable provider and not a pest.

Further, let’s face it, no serious customer falls for the spiel that you’re making “a special exception” just for them. People are far more ‘savvy’ than that. Hence, the next time you start waxing poetically about how you usually don’t do this or that, stop yourself — and reroute.

If you’re under pressure to promote some exclusive new deal by your higher-ups, just mention it casually, perhaps making an indifferent comment that the top brass made you do it. For instance, you could say: “I should let you know that my boss pointed out he’s going to curtail this offer by the end of the week. Whether he does that or not is beyond my authority.”

One of the more naïve things you can say to a customer is, “Don’t you want to save money?” You might as well ask, “By the way, do you like breathing?” It’s a cheap attempt to corner them into saying ‘yes’.

Similarly, don’t make assumptions that a client has time to spare, claiming that you “only” need 10 minutes. It’s not just wrongheaded — it’s wrong. Sure, a little time here and there may seem like nothing to you but imagine if clients started handing out 10 minutes to everyone who asked. They could kiss their key priorities goodbye.

The same goes for making assumptions that you’re basically a ‘shoo-in’ for a sale. (for example, “Obviously, we’re the clear choice for XYZ.”)

Instead, get them to give you their priorities for what it would need to make them a customer. Take a look at how it might go:

Jane, walk me through what’s most important to you in [goal]?

Oh, well, that would be cost savings.

OK, and how are you measuring cost savings?

By three-year total cost compared to our incumbent.

What cost savings would be significant enough to warrant making a change?

12% savings plus.

Thanks for highlighting that. So, if I understand you correctly, if we can deliver a minimum of 12% savings over a three-year contract compared to your incumbent, while meeting your existing requirements, we would be able to work with you?

You can see how dialogue like the above can move things forward. In selling always talk the customer’s language and look to meet their need before yours. Customers don’t buy your products, service or systems, they buy what they can do for THEM!!

If you or your people could use some assistance with how you develop your selling language, get in touch with us at or call us on 0116 232 5231.

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The Tinderbox Team