8 Words to Avoid When Selling


I’m always on the lookout for books and authors that believe as I do about the future of business, sales, leadership and management; forget the fancy stuff, master the basics and let’s just get the job done…and done right.

I can’t wait to get a book that is coming out in early 2014 by Geoffrey James who writes the column, “Sales Source on Inc.com”. His book is titled Business Without the Bullsh*t.

Heck I’ll buy it because of the title alone.

Earlier this year I had the chance to read a brief section from the book and I want to share that with you.  If you have a burning desire to constantly be learning and growing and perfecting your business craft you will share Mr. James’ frustration as I do over how trite and sometimes silly the salesperson vocabulary has become in presentations; emails and sales messages.  Just think about it! I know that the little bitty hairs on the back of your neck stand up a bit when you hear certain words spoken by a salesperson, no matter what they’re selling.  These words can be a costly mistake for the salesperson. Millions if not billions of dollars of sales are lost every year day because one or two words were spoken by a sales person that just sat the prospect on edge or created some form of doubt.

Mr. James has identified 8 such words for his book. He identifies and describes the worst offenders as;

  1. “EXCITING”  There is no word more boring than the word “exciting.” Claiming that something is “exciting” tells everybody that it’s not. Instead, find something about your offering that actually excites the customer’s interest.
  2. “INNOVATIVE” Same here. I can’t remember ever hearing Apple claim to be innovative; they just are. That’s true of every company that actually innovates. For them, it’s just normal everyday behavior. They don’t have to point it out.
  3. “DISCOUNT” Let’s leave this tired old term back in the world where “But, wait! There’s more!” is state-of-the-art sales patter. Look, your stuff has a price and maybe you’ve got some flexibility. But offering a “discount”? How cheesy.
  4. “GUARANTEE” Everyone in the world who has an ounce of sense knows that a “guarantee” means absolutely nothing. “Guarantee” is just the word that people use when they’re too chicken to use a word that has some real legal muscle, i.e. “warranty.”
  5. “HONESTLY” When this word comes out of your mouth, it makes everything else you’ve said so far seem like you were probably lying. Same things foes for starting a sentence with “To tell the truth…” Say what? So you’re saying that you’ve been BS’ing up until now?
  6. “COLLABORATE” How did this dreadful word get into the business vocabulary, anyway? Yes, you’ve got to work together with people to get stuff done, but “collaborate”?
  7. “OPPORTUNITY” This is the classic case of a word that sounds positive but carries a huge load of “its all about me.” Calling any sales situation an “opportunity” is telling the customer that you’re all about closing the deal. Just like any other opportunist.
  8. “QUOTA” On what planet does a customer care whether you make your numbers? Selling is all about helping the customer make the best decision…for the customer. When you’re selling, your quota should be the farthest thing from your mind.

I love it. Geoffrey James has hit the mark. There are some additional words that we could probably add, but without a doubt these are the major offender. Just be aware of what you and your staff are saying. It’s always the little things that make or break sale, so make some adjustments on what and how you say things. A little change could make a big difference in your results and your income.

If you need some help with your sales talk, give me a call. That’s what I do and I’m always open for business.

As always, BE GREAT!

Coach Dan


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