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!
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.
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.
4. I’m really not sure.
See 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.
Like 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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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?