It is Not What You Say, It is What They Hear!

Top 7 Words to Avoid (if you want to make the sale)

Many salespeople use words every day that convey the wrong message, or minimally an unintended message, and wonder where the prospect is went. When we learn to sell, often we learn through ‘On the Job Training’ which means we practice trial and error on our clients. This practice is very expensive and leads to bad habits.

If you want to improve your closing ratio, take action to remove these seven words from every part of your presentations, demonstrations and closing practices.

Try- ‘Try’ can be defined as the lowest form of commitment. Informing a prospect you will ‘try’ on their behalf indicates a low level of commitment from you and, if you can ‘try’ then they can ‘try’ as well. Avoid this habit word at all costs, nothing good ever comes from it.

Mostly- I challenge anyone to give a strong presentation or close a transaction using the word ‘mostly’. If you want your client to dis-engage, tell them you ‘mostly’ believe in your product or service.

Probably- Different word, same drill. Imagine asking your spouse to join you for dinner and his/her response is ‘probably’.  Imagine your client asking you a question about inventory, quality, or pricing and the quick answer you give is ‘probably’.  Definitely eliminate 'probably'!

No- The perfect word for more french-fries or perhaps foreign policy, not the perfect word for sales; if we do not pay close attention to timing, the word 'no' can cost us a sale.  Even if you are using a ‘take away’ technique, offer alternatives not a dead-end. Next time replace ‘no’ with "I will look in to that", "That is a great question", or "Let me get back to you" during your investigation or presentation.

Sorry- Where I was raised, ‘sorry’ meant I will not do it again. We retreat to ‘sorry’ as a means to cover up sloppy presentations, poor client service, or inefficient product delivery.  ‘Sorry’ is a promise that the situation will never happen again. Used too often ‘sorry’ indicates broken promises and your credibility is lost and so is the client. Instead, show compassion by stating, "I regret that", "I wish that had not happened", or "I understand".

Can’t- Didn’t we learn this one in grade school? Imagine a HUGE ‘Stop’ sign in the middle of your road to the sale, that is what “can’t” is. This sign indicates a stopping point; using this word will raise more questions than needed, both verbally and mentally, for your client. Use words or phrases that cast doubt, such as “I am not sure” or “maybe”. Be careful not to replace “can’t” with ‘try’.

Honestly- What is the opposite of ‘honestly’? In sales, the opposite of ‘honestly’ is ‘no credibility’ which leads to ‘no sale’. Again this is a habit word; phrases like ‘to be honest with you’ are distracting to a client, it begs to question your sincerity. Work hard to use terms like "What we have found", "Our clients prefer", or "In my experience".

We know sales are made or lost by words, think hard about the words you use. In your next roll-play (not client presentation, professionals practice away from their clients), avoid these seven words and see how the sales situation is improved.  Once you are comfortable, use them with a client and improve your closing sales ratio.

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. -Zig Ziglar

Kip Miles is the President of 5 Miles Consulting, a retail automotive consulting and training company. Prior to starting 5 Miles Kip enjoyed a successful and diverse 20 year career in the retail automotive business beginning as a lot attendant and ending as a multi-franchise Dealer. Kip enjoys surfing, running, and watching his 3 daughters grow up. He and his family reside in Southern California.

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Comment by Tree King on March 30, 2011 at 9:53pm
Great article, so true!
Comment by Marsh Buice on March 30, 2011 at 9:51pm
Great post Kip
Comment by Joe Clementi on March 30, 2011 at 12:29pm
Simple is always better and you explained your point very well.  Nicely done!

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