10 Things a Good Salesperson Should Never Say and Why.

Attention all salespeople stop saying that!Let’s face it, as salespeople, we know there are some things we should never say. However, It seems like no matter how often sales managers say it there are some phrases salespeople will simply NOT stop

using. I am going to break my usual professional tone and share some insight as to what I (and your clients) hear when you use these lame cliché lines.  

(Updated) I originally wrote this post in July of 2007 and am updating it 10 years later. The reason I did this is because this is still one of my highest traffic blog posts of all time. I didn’t change much, but some of my thoughts have changed and developed over time. Additionally, the post was just a bit dated and needed a bit of freshening up to remain relevant. I hope you enjoy this new updated version. 

The Ultimate List of What a Salesmen Should Not Say

1.     I was just in the area and thought I’d drop by. 

Are you serious! The professional I am trusting to help me with my important issue has nothing better in the world to do right now than just “drop by” to see me for no reason?  I’m busy, my calendar is packed and I do not have time for unscheduled visits that do not have a clear agenda. If you are not doing business with me already I am probably thinking who is this guy? Why is he here and how do I get rid of him as quickly and politely as possible. Unless we really are buddies, don’t just drop by unless you are only planning to leave something (like delicious doughnuts) with my secretary. Trust me; she already knows to tell you I am in a meeting and that I will call you back later. If I really am expecting something from you, she knows that too. Don’t try to fool her. She is smart, deals with several other people just like you every day, and she hates people trying to trick her!

Unless you are bringing me something delicious don't just ''drop by'' my office. #sales Click To Tweet

2.      Have you got a minute to talk?

No, I don’t! I am busy, and I have 100 other things I could be doing right now. As soon as I say no, where are you in this conversation? In my opinion, I think you are better off trying to engage me quickly than to give me the easy out and slit your own throat. If I am too busy to talk believe me I WILL let you know.

Never start a sales call with ''Do you have a minute to talk?'' Click To Tweet

3.      I’ll try.

I really hate this one. I only want to know what you can or will do not what you will TRY to do. If you are not confident enough to say you can do it, do not mention it to me yet. I would rather hear, give me X hours to do some research on that and I’ll get back to you with what I can do. I’ll respect your honesty and willingness to do research. I’ll try is a cop-out, not a commitment.

''Do or do not. There is no try.'' -Yoda Commit fully don't be wishy-washy. #sales Click To Tweet

4.      I’m really not sure.

The uncommitted salespersonSee the picture here? That is what you look like to me when you say I’m not sure, might, or maybe. Again, your default answer is “give me X hours or days to do some research and I’ll get back to you. This answer tells me you do not know the answer, but you are taking my concern or issue seriously and want to help. I am really not sure is not the answer of the confident professional.

5.      It’s not my fault.

Never say it's not my faultLike it or not you are most likely my only contact in your company outside of accounting or billing. That means everything that goes wrong is your fault to some degree. Even if it isn’t, it is still your issue to fix if you are planning to keep my business. The best way to deal with this is to sincerely apologize and take the serious and immediate corrective action as soon as possible. More importantly, let me know what it is you are doing to fix it, and how you will prevent future issues of this nature.

6.      What would I have to do to get you started today?

Ever seen the movie Tin Men? Unless you want to sound like those guys avoid this phrase at all costs. This phrase screams “I am a slimy salesman!” and any rapport you have built with this client is eroding quickly from this point forward. If you were trying to act as a consultant and a problem solver up to this point you just u-turned and waved a red flag in front of me. Instead, use something softer like this. You: Are there any other issues or concerns we have not covered sufficiently? Client: No everything looks good. You: Great! Then the next step is to…Not only do you get a good trial close where you can uncover any last-minute hidden concerns, but you end up at the same place in two steps without using a cliché closing statement. 

Do not use over used cliché closing statements. Your clients have heard them before and they erode… Click To Tweet

7.      We are the lowest price in town.

You very well may be. However, I doubt this really how you want to try to compete. It does not take much effort to come up with a better value proposition than that. Additionally, it only takes a little effort for me as a competing salesperson who sells value to explain to your customer why paying a bit more for my product is worth it. Moreover, if I DO find a lower price, you are a liar now, and any trust you built is gone. My dad once told me when picking a service you had three choices; good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two, but recognize you will always sacrifice the third. Your job is to help your clients to understand this. Be sure to take a look at this article on why selling on price is never a good idea.  

Stop selling on price. Build value in your pitch. If low-cost is your exclusive value statement find… Click To Tweet

8.      Always and Never

Always and never are just plain bad. There is almost always an exception to every rule and my experience is whenever I use an absolute like always or never that exception pops up and embarrasses me. My general rule is to avoid absolute statements wherever possible. Use these sparingly if ever.

9.      What you need is…

Unless you are my Dad or a trusted friend, I think this phrase should be avoided. I don’t even use it during a proposal. If I call you with a problem, and we have been doing business for years, and you are intimately familiar with my issues it may be ok, otherwise, present me with options and let me pick. Even better is to layer questions in a way that I pick without you even directly asking me. Remember, I am the only one who knows what it is I need. A final thought on this: As a salesman, my favourite deals are the ones where I have layered questions in a way that the client tells me what they want to buy and I just say: Great, let’s get that started. 

10.  Trust me.

Trust me? I promise you I do not!If you feel the need to tell me this, I am starting to wonder why and will usually assume I shouldn’t. Trust is like love. It’s built over time and the only way to gain it is to earn it.  If you want me to trust you, be professional, follow-up on your commitments, and be real with me. Let me get to know you. Use small talk, chat me up about common interests, but never say: “Trust me”

Trust is like love. It’s built over time and the only way to gain it is to earn it Click To Tweet

Closing thoughts

I hope this list is useful to you. Selling is tough, it’s a world full of daily highs and lows. Beyond that, your paycheck is tied directly to your ability to sell. I know everyone has a list of things they hate to hear in a selling situation. I would love to see you share some of those thoughts and your experiences with some of these statements by leaving comments below.  

Further Study

I am a HUGE Brian Tracy fan and I highly recommend reading his book The Psychology of Selling. In this book, he is going to give you a series of ideas, methods, strategies, and techniques that you can use immediately to make more sales, faster and easier than ever before.

Discussion

Tell me about a time a salesperson said one of the things on this list and how it made you feel. How could they have done better?

Alternatively, share with me a time you said something you know you shouldn’t have. How did it work out and how did you fix it?

Leave a Reply I'll write back !

  1. I think this is one of the saddest posts I have ever read. You just took away what I thought were my best lines. Now I am going to have read the rest of your blog to find new lines.

  2. Great article Brad. Sometime, we salespersons put our foot in our mouth without even realizing it. We “lose” our prospect before we even get started!

    These points are also wonderful bits of advice for everyone, not just professional salespeople.

  3. This is a great post, Brad. As a sales manager, I spent farr too little time coaching sales people on how to communicate and too much time on what they were selling. This is a great look at just a small part of what we SHOULD be doing as managers to help our salespeople be more successful in the field, even as a bitter pill to swallow. 🙂

  4. Hmm…. think i will have to disagree with you here pal. Pt 2 is polite and many a times, a good salesman have left me alone cause i was busy and i appreciated that. Pt 3 & 4 – shows honesty and ppl appreciate that rather than trying to smoke your way out of a question. Good salesman will make the effort to find out and get back to you the next day, THAT is good salesman-ship.Pt 7, think that will honestly work if 1) its TRUE and 2) a money-back is given if a lower price was found. Wldn’t you agree?

  5. I think if you re-read my post you will see I agree with you on almost every point you have made…

    Hmm…. think i will have to disagree with you here pal. Pt 2 is polite and many a times, a good salesman have left me alone cause i was busy and i appreciated that.
    True, but I did not say to be a rude and press on past the objection. If someone says I can not talk right now, of course you should ask when is a better time to talk and call back at that time. I just don’t think you should invite that objection.
    Pt 3 & 4 – shows honesty and ppl appreciate that rather than trying to smoke your way out of a question. Good salesman will make the effort to find out and get back to you the next day, THAT is good salesman-ship.
    If you re-read the post I do not suggest you try to “smoke your way out”. In fact, that is against everything I believe in. What I suggest is that you tell your client you need to do a little research and that you will get back to them. I think that is a much stronger answer than I’ll try or I don’t know.
    Pt 7, think that will honestly work if 1) its TRUE and 2) a money-back is given if a lower price was found. Wldn’t you agree?
    I think it can be a great way to do business if that is your business model. Just look at Wal-mart. The problem is, most sales people can not offer that guarantee, and for most of the companies we work for, Wal-mart is not the image they are trying to project. Its not a bad value proposition; but it usually is not the best one either. Here is a link to a posting I did on price and value for more info: http://bmtrnavsky.wordpress.com/2007/06/15/5/
    Read it again and I think you will see we are not that far from being in agreement.
    Thanks for the comment!

    -Brad

  6. hey brad, kool. Think I understand where you are coming from now. You are not saying don’t say these things, but rather say it IN ANOTHER WAY. Agreed.

    But still don’t understand your comment on pt2. A salesman shld always ask if you are interested to listen and whether you are rushing for time. What i cannot stand are those that walk up to you or call you and expect you to give them your time. So i think, pt2 should still be asked 🙂

  7. I see the point here, too. I’ve had to think back on this one to figure how I’ve reacted when approached by sales folks in the past. In this discussion, I’m someone with many years of experience in the role of one being approached, so that’s how I’m responding here.

    First, on the surface, I absolutely don’t mind the question, “have you got a minute.” The problem isn’t that it’s a bad question, it’s that the question is predictable, with a completely predictable response. For me, that was most often, “no.”

    That’s certainly how I read number 2 here, and how I’m reading your response, too. So I’ll just leave it with my favorite alternative to this question, as a busy executive:

    “I’ve been researching your organization and from my understandably limited experience, I have a product/solution/etc, that I believe may fit well with what you do. If now is not a good time, I’d like to schedule some time with you to walk through it and see if there’s a mutual fit. When might that work for you?”

    I appreciate confidence. I appreciate research. I appreciate contrition. The sales guy from LifeLock pitched me this way just last week, earned my time, and as a result got into the organization — of course, he also had a compelling product! 🙂

    It’s funny, these blog discussions — this one is one of nuance and finesse, finding the right tone to be respectful and the right words to avoid being trite.

  8. Great answer Pete. When I said not to say do you have a minute, I should have given more explanation. The answer to that question is nearly always no, and I just don’t think you should invite it.
    Pete, your I’ve been researching quote is great, and basically the idea I had in mind when I said try to engage me.
    Thanks for a great reply! I hope this discussion continues.
    are there any other common phrases you guys think are best avoided?

    -Brad

  9. Brad,

    I agree with this excellent list of “don’t’s”. I see your LifePerspective’s thoughts then yours on number two. Let me share a nugget of BRILLIANCE I received from an amazing sales training (JAWS Just Another Way of Selling). When you make contact, frame your needs in a time perspective, do not ask if they have time. Here is my favorite example (I use this endlesslly to a high level of results):

    “Brad, I have two things to talk to you about, it should not take more than five minutes.”

    Then you pause, if no response, go into your first thing. Now often I have been asked to call or come back, but my respect for their time gets me appointments for the next engagement(framing and outline objectives to a prospect is a passive showing of respect).

    I have to say your thoughts are inciteful and I will be back to your site often.

    Please feel free to look at my latest posts at:
    Coaching sale champions (The link is above)

  10. Here is number 11. “Let me be perfectly honest with you.”
    What have you been doing the rest of thr time that we have been talking? This one is like fingernails on the blackboard. Try “let me be perfectly candid” or better yet avoid the qualifiers altogether.

  11. Thanks for the helpful advise! Even the comments are great. I agree about point 2 – I would not be offended at all if someone asked me if I have a minute. In fact, I prefer it because then I can say ‘Actually, the baby is screaming, I’ll call you back!!’ There is a better way to word the phrase though, I agree on that.

    I am considering getting my license to work for Re-Max, so today I have been searching for any helpful hints on how to get started, and how to become a success. I am confident that I would be a great salesperson, cause I’m honest, genuine and true. Doesn’t hurt to be young and great looking either 😉

    Anyways, just wanted to leave a comment, since you stated above that you would love to see some shared thoughts. Hope you all have a wonderful life! 😀

  12. Hi,
    I have just started my first job in marketing. I haven’t had much experience but from reading this blog I’m really getting the idea! But my main question would be… if you are working for the day in another company selling your own product, how would you approach people who may be, say shopping? For example: I am working for the electric company but I am stationed in the local grocery shop. People are trying to get home after their shop quickly. would I be best off trying to catch them on their way in or as they are leaving? And how would I catch their attention without saying “have you got a minute?”
    As I too agree with you Brad, I think its fairly obvious what they would say.
    Thanks in advance 😀

  13. I agree with some but not all points.

    Sometimes asking the customer “Is this a bad time?” puts the control in their hands and they appreciate this and having control may opt and say “Uuuuuh, no, this is not a bad time. What can I help you with?”

    By putting control in their hands, they feel more pressured to listen than to say “no” if you were to flat out ask, “Got a minute?”

    Another good line to use is tell them you saw their ad somewhere (name the place), tell them you think it’s a good idea/business, and lastly ask them if they want to maybe talk about doing some business. This way it shows you didn’t just pull a snippet out of the yellow pages and actually care about them.

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    @ctorresradio

  14. hi,frndz.plz help me out i m new to network marketing.and in network marking selling is very imp.so for that one should have to become a good sails person.and try to learn more n more techniques.plz help me and mail me more n mor info.

  15. Hi brad, im new in sales…trying to be a good and succesfull salesman.found your article make me realize to correct mistake i have done.
    Now i have more clear price is nothing compare to service that your company able to provide.stress and upset to compete with sales people around you ruining the value of the product by lowr down the price.
    Anyway im looking for some advice how i could start sale on new customer that i never met before…hope there is a guideline for me as im just normal technical people just started to become and entreprenure/salesperson for self improvement.

    Thanks,nazrin

  16. Those are helpful things …I now know why I missed some of my good client’s….thank you.

  17. This is great!
    I reviewed like this article because this July I will start working at Berrylands UAE. And you help me a lot. Thank you!

  18. Great one Brad,
    I think as a biginner these will hlp to a large extent in bringing out the saleman in me

  19. Thanks Brad all your points are very helpfull, and yes youre right when you said that one should never give anyone the chanse to object, the more yes’s you can get the closer you are to uour sale.

  20. thats is one of the best thungs i have read in my life and very great& effort from you to advise me . i think this will provides more time in my career as iam beginner in it . best wishes abetter life to you .

  21. The real liars are the buyers, as salesman we need to catch the buyer in a lie. “I’ll try” that can easily been said with a following statement and end with a question to get the answer the salesman wants. For example.
    Customer asks a question ” Can you bring it (the product) tomorrow?

    “I’ll try, I have 4 appointments tomorrow and will bring it along with me. If I can’t make it I will adjust my schedule the next day to make it work for you, if another day is better let me know what’s best for you. Will 2 days same time work for you”?

    A commitment to the other customers is a commitment, if a salesman shows that they are committed to the other customers and you respond with yes or no. Yes meaning you will, no meaning they are not important. “I’ll try” means you’re putting the effort to make it happen.
    If a salesman blows off one of his 4 appointments for this particular customer, they will think they might be blown off one day too!

    I don’t find this helpful. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

  22. sales is the part of marketing.to be a good sales man you need to be good speaker.and u have vast knowladge about the service or product.