The words we use when sales opportunities arrive can help or hurt our chances of a successful outcome—or a missed opportunity. Much of what you read about sales focuses on things you should do and say. This, however, is focused on what not to say.  The following words and phrases are examples of words to avoid when you want to move a sales opportunity to a positive outcome. Not using these words or terms can improve your sales skills:


For some reason, a burst of humility occurs when those who run a small business talk about themselves, their company or product. Hint: “We’re just a …” does not sound humble. It sounds like you are apologizing. “I’m just calling …” does not sound like a phone call opening anyone wants to continue. Tip: Just drop the word just.


No matter how you say it, or in what context, saying “probably” sounds like you are avoiding something. “Our service agreement probably includes that …” doesn’t encourage confidence. Tip: If you don’t know for sure, say, “I will research that and get back with the information immediately.”

Maybe or May

As with “probably,” these words make you sound as if you are afraid to ask the prospect to commit. People want you to express confidence in your product or service. They want you to tell them something will do something or not do something, not that it “may.”

I’ll have to …

Whenever a potential buyer puts you into a position where you don’t know what to say, or have the authority to say, don’t use the term “I’ll have to …” as a diversion. “I’ll have to check with my sales manager” is a example. “Having to” do anything is a pause in the sales process that allows the prospect to disengage. Instead, make each break in the sales process a part of the process, not a diversion from it. Try saying this instead: “For any changes in pricing, we have a quick review process that I can start at the end of our conversation.”


Even people who purchase expensive things want to believe they are getting great value for their money. Tip: Focus on quality, features, uniqueness, luxury, value, return on investment or anything other than the word expensive.


Listen to yourself the next time you are pitching new business. Hear yourself when you say, “If you select our firm.” Say it this way, “When you select our firm.” Communicate your belief that it is obvious who they should will select.


Too often when selling, we refer to the reasons to purchase a product in terms of “wants,” as in, “I know you want a better way to catch a mouse.” In reality, no one wants a mousetrap. What they want is no mice. They need a way to get rid of mice. Tip: Use the word need instead of want. “You need to keep your children away from the diseases spread by mice, therefore you need our better mousetrap.”

One last suggestion: Keep silent and say as few words as possible.

A key to successful selling is often tied to what you don’t say.The key to successful selling is to say nothing and listen to the words of the prospective buyer.

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