6 Sales Phrases That Are Killing Your Deals (& What to Say Instead)
*This article was originally posted on SalesHacker.com
“Use your words.”
It’s a good reminder when you’re angry or upset. But it’s also a good reminder when you’re emailing a prospect or on a call.
Because the wrong sales phrases — no matter how natural they seem — can kill a deal before it starts.
Why Some Sales Phrases Need to Go
Expectations of sales professionals have changed over time. With an unlimited choice of product options (thanks to the internet) and access to all the information they need at their fingertips, buyers have more leverage and higher expectations.
Having a good product – even the best product – isn’t enough to successfully engage and sell to the modern buyer. Year ago, buyers actually needed to engage with salespeople to become educated about functionality and the state of the market.
Crazy concept, I know.
But as market dynamics have shifted, salespeople must evolve to match buyer expectations. A big part of that is crisper communication.
To become and remain a successful seller in the modern age you need to communicate and engage in a meaningful way. In short, in today’s world, sellers just need to be better.
And today, we’re going to focus specifically on using your words — your sales phrases — better.
There are two types of bad sales phrases we’re going to discuss:
Those formed from laziness
Those that aren’t effective
It’s not a knock on the profession, because I’m guilty too. We don’t get the results we could (or should) because we’re using these lazy and ineffective sales phrases.
But that doesn’t change the fact: For salespeople everywhere, the pressure is on to cut through the noise and be memorable to potential buyers.
Here they are: 6 sales phrases you need to eliminate today and tips for what to say instead.
Lazy Sales Phrases
Salespeople have a lot of conversations, and pending the velocity of their sale cycle, the types of conversations can become very repetitive. When any human task becomes repetitive, consciously or unconsciously, we naturally look for ways to cut corners.
And that’s where lazy sales phrases are made, used, and become habits.
Ask yourself the last time you used any of the phrases below. If the answer is anytime in the past 12 months, then read on to nix them today.
“Just Checking In”
This is notoriously known as the laziest and worst sales phrase on the planet. “Just checking in” is a zero value-add for your prospect, and therefore VERY easy to ignore.
Why are you checking in? This line is so lazy, it doesn’t even bother to say why. Your recipient has to spend time and energy opening the email, figuring out whether they’re missing something (surely you didn’t send an email for no reason, right?), then answer.
It’s too much work! Email ignored.
What you’re really trying to say is this: “Are there updates on ___ (that thing you care about)?”
Try this instead. Let’s say you’re waiting for an update on legal review.
Don’t: Hi Keith – Just checking in to see if you have any updates?
Do: Hi Keith – Are there any updates on the legal review process? Our team is on standby if you have any concerns.”
Or perhaps it’s been a few weeks since you talked to your prospect.
Don’t: Hi Myra – Just checking in. Do you have 30 minutes to meet?
Do: Hi Myra – Has timing aligned to regroup? When we last spoke, May was a better time to revisit how we can [insert value prop] for your team. Does it make sense to reconnect on Tuesday?
By asking if it makes sense to regroup, you spark a dialogue. You’re more likely to get the “why” behind the answers — positive or negative — because you’re not leading with an ask.
Remember, attention is short and you have limited words to burn, so use them wisely. Cut any and all filler words, and replace with context and value. Make it as easy as possible to respond to you.
And don’t even think of using, “touching base” in its place. “Touching base” is its ugly cousin. Hard pass.
This lazy sales phrase plagues discovery calls and demos across sales floors everywhere. It makes me cringe.
I love to hate this question because, until recently, I also used it. Sellers think it’s a quick “out” to spark a dialogue, but it falls flat. Why?
What sellers and (most) buyers want is a conversation that is challenging, insightful, or simply interesting. Many sales leaders would call this “meaningful.”
There’s a time and a place to ensure questions are all answered, but “Any questions?” is the laziest of them all. Similar to “Just checking in,” you put the responsibility on your prospect to generate a topic of conversation.
When at a natural transition in your demo, try instead:
Taylor – what’s most interesting about this to you?
Now they’re on the spot to answer honestly, and therefore, meaningfully. This question will either surface
What they see as most valuable
A question about what you said/showed
Or they’ll say, “I don’t know,” or “nothing”
The last option is undesirable for them because it will make them seem socially uninteresting to you and their peer participants. So the former two answers are most often the result. And this gives you exactly what you want.
Plug and play this in your next conversation:
“What about this _____ (feature, product, story, use case) is most interesting to you?”
Then stop talking. After a short pause, you will get the conversation you so eagerly desire.
Use this on every call, and watch single-word answers disappear.
Ineffective Sales Phrases
Some sales phrases don’t need to be completely removed from your vocabulary. But they are ineffective the way they’re currently being used. They only need a bit of tweaking to make them useful.
Let’s take a look.
“List Price” or “Rack Rate”
Aside from making you sound like a used car salesperson who’s reading the sticker price off a used Nissan, when you use the phrase, “list price,” you completely negate the validity of your asking price.
You’re subliminally saying, “Here’s our starting point. It’s your turn to take a hack at it.”
Worse still, when you say any of these words — list price, typical price, or standard price — at any point in a deal, you can expect your sales cycle to extend 19% longer than when you don’t use these terms (Gong.io).
Fortunately, by slightly altering your word choice, you can drastically improve the beginning of your pricing talk track.
Don’t: list price
Do: approved pricing
The change is subtle but has a psychological impact.
“Approved pricing” suggests the price is specific to the buyer’s scenario. It feels like there is thought behind the number, which gives it credibility.
I don’t expect this change to eradicate discounting requests or negotiation from your sales cycle, but at the very least will give you more confidence and a stronger pricing dialogue.
“Pick Your Brain”
This sales phrase is a big loser. I mean, think about it: Getting your brain picked sounds taxing and, frankly, unenjoyable. It also means the person doing the picking is getting value at the expense of the pickee.
The mistake is that salespeople try to preface an “ask” with an unattractive, one-sided dialogue:
Don’t: Hey Marie,
Just touching base following my last email. I’d like to pick your brain on your web optimization tactics and share best practices from our 2,000+ clients. Do you have 15 minutes tomorrow?
Why not “give” value instead?
Do: Hey Marie,
I’ve identified two key areas where we can impact your web optimization results, specifically following our work with other AI-based data labeling organizations.
What’s the best time for us to connect this Thursday to review?
Don’t mask a weak or cold ask with a “brain pick.” Instead, be direct with a give-first mentality, and watch your responses increase in volume and warmth.
“Just Wanted To”
This sales phrase doesn’t work on multiple levels: It feels passive. It’s casual. And it’s selfish by definition.
In speech, this phrase often goes unnoticed. We hear it as “simply confirming,” which isn’t terrible.
Via email, however, it has much more of a negative impact. People often read the first few words of an email via mobile notification or very quickly via desktop. Leading with “just wanted to” makes it sound like you’re setting up an ask or a task — and no one wants either.
Don’t: Hey Morgan – Just wanted to make sure you have the agreement. Did you get it?
Instead, be more direct and proactive.
Do: Hi Morgan – I’m reaching out to ensure you received the agreement. Can you please confirm?
You can be direct and still be polite in your ask, so instead of leading with what you want, start with why you’re reaching out.
Remember, the rule of thumb is to give first. With that approach, you’ll win your prospects’ trust (and earn their time). Don’t let self-interest guide your messaging.
Don’t Be Lazy with Your Sales Phrases
You’re not a lazy sales rep. You’re a successful sales professional who is constantly striving for improvement. (Like reading the best sales blogs.)
That being the case, you need to use your words effectively — not just when you’re speaking, but in email as well.
Use these updated sales phrases and techniques, and level-up your conversations.