As with all professions that require interpersonal communication, salespeople must apply a great deal of nuance to their conversations. There are lots of personalities out there, and people interpret things differently, with many of us having varied communication styles. This can sometimes work well, but other times, it can lead to miscommunications which can derail entire conversations, or worse, leave someone feeling offended.
That’s why salespeople need to keep things simple, and to avoid unnecessarily risky words and phrases, especially on sales calls, where, (unlike an email), we’re required to be quick on our feet, and where saying the wrong thing, or saying something the wrong way can backfire, despite the very best intentions.
On that note, there are some common phrases used by salespeople which should have no place in their vocabulary. Most people have picked up these phrases after hearing others use them, continuing the cycle without ever questioning whether they’re smart things to say. We’ve put together a list of the most common ones, which should be avoided by any sales reps who want to have better (and more effective) conversations.
Here are nine things salespeople should never say on a sales call:
1. “I’m just checking in…”
The problem with this phrase is that it openly indicates that you’re not bringing anything new, or anything of value, to the prospect. Checking in is something we do when we arrive at a hotel, and prospects are wise enough to understand that what you’re really doing is trying to sell them something. Pretending you’re doing otherwise is disingenuous, trite, and pointless.
2. “Is now still a good time?”
When a prospect has answered your call, asking them if they’re still available isn’t just redundant, it also shows that you don’t value your own time, and gives them an opportunity to end the conversation. Rather than falling over yourself to be overly accommodating, behave as if your time is valuable, and as if you’re a professional looking to conduct a business transaction… because you are.
3. “Do you need some time to think about it?”
Some salespeople are so focused on avoiding “awkward” silences, and on being overly accommodating, that they actually go out of their way to let a prospect off the hook from making a decision. This phrase is a perfect example of this behavior, and you can bet there have been plenty of otherwise great deals lost because a sales rep volunteered more time on behalf of a prospect. If a prospect needs more time to think about it, let them tell you, but don’t do it for them.
4. “Are you the decision maker?”
There’s no quicker way to lose the interest of a prospect, or to have them screen you out, than by asking this question. Not only is it way too direct, but it also challenges the prospect’s authority (and perceived self-worth) by being framed in such a negative way. Rather than asking if someone is the decision-maker, ask if there will be other people involved in the process; there are plenty of ways to frame this question, but “Are you the decision maker?” is probably the worst one.
5. “Does that make sense?”
While salespeople don’t mean any harm when they say this, asking a prospect if something makes sense after explaining it can come off the wrong way. Though this phrase is used to confirm that somebody understands what you’ve just told them, when framed in this way, it can imply that a person isn’t smart enough to understand, as in: “Does this make sense, or do you need me to dumb it down?” Pick a different phrase.
6. “To be honest with you..”
Salespeople might think they’re deepening trust and rapport when they say this, but in reality, they’re doing the exact opposite. Why do you have to clarify that you’re going to be honest? Were you not honest before? Are you not an honest person by nature? This throwaway line is meaningless, and breeds distrust, since it’s something a huckster would say. Stay away from qualifiers like this, and instead, just say what you want to say.
7. “Normally we don’t do this, but…”
Once again, some salespeople think that lines like this will endear them to a prospect. Unfortunately, they’ve been so overused (and misused by nefarious actors), that they’re no longer associated with the truth, but with manipulation. And even if it is true, and you don’t normally do this, phrasing it in this way will still hurt your credibility, because most prospects simply won’t believe you.
8. “Can I send you some information?”
When you offer to send a prospect more information instead of walking them through the sales process and outlining concrete next steps, you’re letting them, and more importantly, yourself, off the hook. The chances of getting a response after “sending information” is slim to none, and you’re passing off your job as a salesperson onto marketing materials which aren’t able to form the human bond and business relationship you’re aiming for. Don’t use sending information as a cop out from doing the work of a salesperson.
9. “What keeps you up at night?”
If a sales rep asks this question, it’s usually because they’re trying to find out a prospect’s pain points so they can tailor the appropriate solution. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to ask, since it’s trite, and way too personal. You never know what really keeps a person up at night. Maybe they have a sick relative. Or maybe they have money problems. No matter what it is, it’s probably not their company’s software or their payroll provider. Uncover problems by asking open-ended questions, but always avoid this one.