10 things a good sales person should never say and why.

It seems like no matter how often sales managers say it, or how often sales people hear it, there are some phrases they will just 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 highly over used lines.  

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 X issue has nothing better in the world to do right now than just “drop by” to see me?  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 expecting to leave something I am expecting with my secretary. Trust me; she already knows to tell you I am in a meeting, and that if I am interested I will call back. If I really am expecting something from you she knows that too. Don’t try to fool her. She hates that!

2.      Have you got a minute? No I don’t! I am busy, and I have 100 other things I could be doing. In my opinion I think you are better off trying to engage me 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.

3.      I’ll try. I really hate this one. I only want to know what you will or can 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. I would much rather hear, give me 24 hours to do some research on that and I’ll get back to you than I’ll try.

4.      I’m really not sure. Again, your default answer should be “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.      Its not my fault. Like it or not you are most likely my only contact in the company; everything that goes wrong is your fault. If it isn’t it is still your issue to fix. The best way to deal with this is to apologize, and take the most 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. 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…

7.      We are the lowest price in town.You very well may be, but is this really how you want to try to compete. It typically does not take much effort to come up with a better value proposition than that. 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. Click here for more on why selling on price is not a good idea.  

8.      Always and NeverAlways and never are just plain bad. There is going to be an exception to every rule. 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. I am the ultimate decision maker as to what it is I need.

10.  Trust me. 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.  I hope this list is useful to you. 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 by leaving comments below.  

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35 Responses to 10 things a good sales person should never say and why.

  1. Mike Blaney says:

    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. ideasellers says:

    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. Pete Wright says:

    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!


  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. Pete Wright says:

    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?


  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. A very nice list and I have my own list of similar words and phrases to avoid. Things like “the thing is…” that are related to your point #8. I have a few of the others I avoid on the telephone over at http://www.toach.net/articles/sales_killers.htm

    I also like you showing off by breaking your own rules 🙂 (read #1 then #10)


  11. bob franke says:

    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.

  12. Candi Hunter says:

    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! 😀

  13. steve says:

    how easy can sales be coz i think i have been breaking all the above rules.

  14. Pingback: Trusted Advisor » Top Ten Things Not to Say in a Sales Call

  15. Tamara says:

    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 😀

  16. C Torres says:

    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.

    follow me on twitter


  17. Pieter says:

    wow this stuff is good! top notch!!

  18. sunny says:

    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.

  19. nazrin says:

    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.


  20. Sarah says:


  21. Nikhil says:

    It is great for newcomers like me..

  22. Nnamdi says:

    Nice one dude…..Mehnnn its amazing…!

  23. Pingback: Become a Better Salesperson « Sadiermooney's Blog

  24. Raam prathap says:

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

  25. Marie Vien Farro says:

    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!

  26. Udoka says:

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

  27. Beth Nev says:

    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.

  28. fazeel says:

    great insight for an individual who has started to record his conversation as of date!

  29. Rasmus Juhl says:

    Great list, very useful. Especially 3+4, I will change that now 🙂

  30. mahmoud wagdy says:

    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 .

  31. Chris says:

    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.

  32. somser khan says:

    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.

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