10 Words You Should Avoid Using If You Work in Sales

Technically, sales is simple: convince as many people as possible to buy your company’s product or service. In reality, it’s more complex, because conversations and human interactions have so many variables, often guided by the ever-present nuances in our discussions. People aren’t always on the same wavelength, and what might go over well with one person won’t necessarily resonate with another -- that’s just life.

Faced with this challenge, salespeople must navigate different moods, wants, and personalities with a consistent framework. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription for getting deals done, it is possible to minimize risk during sales discussions by knowing what to say, and what not to say. The latter might start with sweeping statements to avoid, then narrow down to particular words and phrases that can be counterproductive.

For the sake of this article, we’ve decided to focus on words to keep out of your sales conversations. Not only do some of these words frame the conversation in a negative light, they can also turn off prospects who might otherwise be interested.

Here are ten words to avoid using if you work in sales:

1. Maybe

Using this word implies that you’re unsure, which is never a good thing if you’re trying to build confidence. While you certainly shouldn’t commit to anything you’re unsure of, instead of hedging, simply be clear and honest about what you know, and find out the right answer immediately.

2. Seriously

It’s tempting to use the word “seriously” to emphasize your point, but the problem with using language like this is that it implies you weren’t being serious to begin with. Try speaking without qualifying your language. It might take some getting used to, but will improve clarity and help you tighten up your messaging.

3. Discount

It’s true that people love discounts and feel better when they believe they’re getting a good deal. But on the flip side, being quick to discount shows that you don’t value what you’re offering and might even make you come off as desperate. Discount when you have to, but avoid using this language whenever possible.

4. Hope

Hope is not a strategy, and your prospects know this too. When somebody is open to hearing about how you can help them, they don’t want hope, they want certainty. This is why using words like hope can backfire, rendering you as less of a trusted advisor and more as someone with their fingers crossed.

5. Ridiculously

You might think that adverbs like ridiculously serve to add emphasis to whatever point you’re making, but in reality, they’re more likely to come off as disingenuous exaggerations. In a world where everybody wasn’t promising outlandish results, these qualifiers might work. But consumers have become so desensitized after decades of empty promises that leaving these types of words out of your vocabulary is the smarter move.

6. Guarantee

Similar to the above, making guarantees is virtually pointless in this day and age, with a few exceptions of course. The truth is you should be able to influence your prospects without resorting to gimmicky guarantees, so if that’s all you’ve got, you might want to take another look at your pitch.

7. Honestly

Telling your prospect that you’re about to be honest with them implies that you weren’t being honest to begin with, and they’ll pick up on it whether you think they will or not. Instead of qualifying your points, speak confidently and let your language speak for itself. Anything less comes off as disingenuous and cheapens your message.

8. Commission

Unless the prospect demands to know how much you’re going to make (which rarely happens), you should avoid any and all discussions about your commission. What matters is what the prospect will get out of the transaction, not what you’ll get, and anytime you forget that point, you’re not putting yourself in a position to win.

9. Obviously

If something is so obvious, then the prospect will understand without you having to say so. By pointing out that it’s obvious, you’re questioning their intelligence, whether intentionally or not. This is one of those words that should only be said by the buyer, and never by the person trying to earn someone’s business.

10. Cheap

Even though people love saving money, they don’t want to spend it on anything that’s considered cheap. Think twice before using this word, as it may have the unintended effect of convincing your prospective buyer that you’re at the low end of the quality scale. Remember, most people want value, and are usually willing to pay a little more if they believe they’re getting it.

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