“It’s the words we choose that determine success or failure”  — Tim Wasman

That is a wise saying.  It means the right words can really help your cause, but it also means that the wrong words can hurt your efforts or kill the sale.  Here is my top ten list of words or phrases to avoid when calling on clients and prospects.

10 – Let me be honest/To tell you the truth – Why?  Were you not being truthful or honest up to this point?  What made you decide to stop lying now?  Another version of this is “trust me” which similarly creates the opposite reaction in most prospects.  Trust is earned, not requested.  These kind of statements backfire psychologically.

9 – I know you’ll love this – You are not a mind reader.  You are also not a Jedi, so stop trying to Jedi mind trick me into agreeing to something before I have heard it.  In fact, you are far more likely to get my cooperation if you admit that you MIGHT be a good fit for me, versus trying to tell me what I am going to be feeling after we talk.

8 – I want to earn your business – Please.  Unless you are a car salesman in New Jersey, or planning on visiting your client’s location and cleaning their windows, you do not plan on earning their business.  You want to sell them something that WORKS for their business, solves a problem and creates a desired result.  Buying from you will never be a return favor because you picked up their dry cleaning or bought their business by dropping price.  The 80’s called, and it wants its salesy catchphrase back.

7 – OK, but – Often I hear this as a response to an objection.  This is what I call the 7 year old argument technique.  It makes you come across as immature, inattentive and defensive.  Try responding to objections using a process based approach and saying things like, “I understand, can I ask one question?” or my favorite “how do you mean?”.  Acknowledge and clarify.  Don’t argue and contradict. You are not seven years old, so don’t talk like you are.

6 – Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? – This is usually a weak finish to the elevator pitch.  If I had my wish, uttering this would be punished by being suspended from sales for a year, fined on month of salary, and forced to attend a support group for the emotionally needy.  It is a premature attempt to close.  Premature, because at this stage, you usually have no idea of the real issues, and hence no idea what to suggest. If you do your job right in the discovery and presentation, correctly identifying your customer’s pain, you shouldn’t have to ask.  If you want to qualify something, qualify the existence of the issue you solve, not the interest of the client in your product or service before you’ve asked them anything. If you want to ask for the order, ASK FOR THE ORDER, don’t ask for interest in the idea of ordering.

5 – How are you today? – You don’t care.  I know you don’t care.  You didn’t call to find out about my day, anymore than the Comcast guy calls you to find out what you’re watching on TV.  If you start the call by insinuating a lie that you want to be my BFF, you are already annoying me.  Saying that is a tick, a nervous filler like “ummmm” or “Ya know?”.  Your call should start with one item, qualifying for time.  something like “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

4 – I just wanted to call and check in – Really?  Is this a hotel?  Are you about to get on a plane?  You have a reason for calling.  Stop lying and wasting my time and get to the point.  I am busy, so are you.  Be professional and be honest about the reason for your call.  Calling me and being friendly is fine.  Calling me and trying to be my friend is annoying.  If you want to get more friends, join a Facebook group. If you want to call me, have a valid business reason for doing so and get to it quickly.

3 – Can I ask why not? (when they object or decline) – Understand this clearly, they do NOT owe you an explanation for saying no. If you feel the “no” is weak, and you think there is an opportunity to dig deeper, than ask a SPECIFIC question.  ie “can I ask one quick question? Looks like you ran with us 7 months ago, did something happen that caused a bad experience?  Because if we did something wrong, I’d like to try to fix it”. That’s fine. That makes sense as a specific request for more information. Be nice and ask a question if you want, but don’t demand a justification. They don’t owe you one.

2 – I want to tell you about/talk about – Any time you call someone and start talking about what YOU want, you are running the risk that they get bored or lose interest.  Like most of us, business owners are selfish.  “What’s in it for me?” is what they are thinking.  So when you call and say, “I want to tell you all the new stuff we are doing”, you are missing the opportunity to make it relevant to them.

“I want to tell you how some of the new things we are doing might be able to help you drive in $14,000 in additional revenue next month”.

“I’ve got an idea that could help drive up your revenue and customer count, could you invest 10 minutes to discuss it with me?”

Base the statement on what they want to get their ears to perk up.

1 – I can guarantee – No, you cant.  Stop lying.  At best, you might be able to offer me a warranty.  You cannot guarantee that anything is going to happen, especially not specific results.  You know why? Because the Mayans may be right (even if off on timing), and the world could end tomorrow.  Unless you have God like powers, you cannot guarantee anything.  Heck, a hurricane could strike and wipe out your town tomorrow <too soon?>

Instead, share “typical” results, as in, “Our current clients are seeing between 15-20% cost savings year over year”.  That sets expectations without making false promises.

The words you use should be chosen as carefully and as deliberately as the clothes you wear. They impact how your message comes across.