Your Big But… and other words holding you back

10 06 2013

Elephant sit

The sales pitch starts like this: “Hello sir, my name is Such N. So, and I want to…”  It is over before it started.  Unfortunately, Mr. So doesn’t realize how “I want” sounds coming from a sales person.  Why should anyone care what he wants?  Customers only care about what they want.

Recently I was on the receiving-end of multiple “I want” sales pitches.  Knowing I am not the only one with verbal pet peeves, I reached out to my peers on the “Sales Playbook” LinkedIn group to learn if there is anything that they intentionally avoid saying.  From that discussion I created this collection of words and phrases that can have an adverse effect on your sales efforts:

    • Honestly – Am I to assume you’ve been dishonest with all of your other statements?
    • Guarantee – Unless you are willing to give someone your house if whatever you are claiming fails, then don’t make any guarantees.
    • Just between us – So you’re a person that tells secrets when other people aren’t around?  Great.  Are you telling my secrets when I’m not around?
    • Contracts vs. Agreements – Contracts can seem scary and one-sided.  Agreements imply a mutually beneficial collaboration.
    • Signature vs. Approval – I need your “signature” because I need someone to be at fault if things go wrong.  OR, I need your “approval” because you are someone with the authority to make decisions.
    • Buy vs. Own – When you “buy” a car, the focus is on the act of purchasing.  When you “own” a car, the focus is on driving and enjoying it.
    • You know what I mean? – If you have to ask, then you should know that I don’t.
    • Again If you say “Again, our policy is…” you might as well say, “I’ve told you this before, what’s wrong with you?!?!”
    • You said – As in, “You said something that enables me to trap you with your own words.”
    • I want – To me, this is the worst.  “I want to tell you about” or “I want to show you our product” or “I want a few minutes of your time.”  This is such a bad sales mistake that just typing it makes me a little nauseous.
    • You’ve got to – We often hear “You’ve got to see our latest product” or “You’ve got to try our service.”  No we don’t.
    • I, me, my – Assume your client doesn’t care about you and you’ll be off to a great start.
    • But – This word essentially implies one of two things, and both have negative connotations.  “But” either means “If you liked what I just said, then you’re not gonna like this next part,” OR it means “Here is the good news to counteract the bad news from my first statement.”  Often, you can replace a “but” with an “and” or just reword your sentence altogether.

There are many other words and phrases that could be included in this list.   As someone who talks a lot, I know how easy it is to say the wrong thing.  Be mindful of the perception of your words, and make statements in terms that are important to your audience.

Thanks to the Sales Playbook members for sharing their contributions.



5 responses

10 06 2013

This is good information for anyone, and any situation , when it comes to effective communication.. I just finished interviewing someone for a job, and this same type of language in an interview came off as being so disingenuous…it’s just plain lazy.
Good stuff Brad!

11 06 2013

OK, good advice. But, what should we use instead of “I want” – what’s your voicemail / elevator pitch?

11 06 2013
Brad White

It could be a question instead of a statement: “Would you like to..?”
Or it could be a value statement: “Our company specializes in…”
Or it could be my favorite opening line of all time – you’ll have to message me privately for that nugget!

14 06 2013

Good post Brad. – One addition if I may be so bold.- “I just wanted to touch base” with a subtext that essentially says “I don’t have anything of value to add to our previous conversations but…”.

14 06 2013
Brad White

Good one Mr. Collins. If you have others, feel free to share.

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