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Words that Kill Sales and What to Say Instead

By Authorify // 25 Jan 2021

The pen is mightier than the sword - and that goes for sales, too. Find out secrets to what you SHOULD and SHOULDN'T say to seal a deal. 

Ever listen to another sales professional converse with a potential client and think to yourself, “I pretty much say all of that stuff, too…Why are his numbers insane and mine are just so-so?”

Maybe it’s the smile? The suit? The neighborhood connections? Perhaps.

But what if he’s just using specific words and phrases he knows are proven to produce favorable results? AND what if he also knows which seemingly innocent words and phrases to avoid at all costs?

Most successful salespeople have a knack for small talk and a solid grasp on human nature, but research has proven the way we perceive language is even more specific.

It turns out, there are certain words that can help in sales, and — you guessed it — certain words that can hasten a deal's demise.

In other words:

Say this: ___ = sales increase,

Say that: ___ = sales crash and burn.

These amazingly simple, yet strategically important, words can make a HUGE difference in your bottom line — research has proven it!

The data science team at Gong Research Labs analyzed over 500,000 anonymized sales calls using conversation intelligence technology. Sales calls that included or excluded specific words and phrases saw correlating increases or decreases in successful sales.

Some surprisingly significant connections were revealed between sales that were successful from beginning to end and those that started out promising, but fizzled out before they crossed the finish line.

Words/Phrases That Kill Sales

Here are some common words and phrases to avoid when you’re trying to land a potential client or close a sale. 

1. “We/I Provide…”

It’s great to let your prospects know that working with you would be a super smart choice, but data show that close rates dropped by a whopping 22% when the phrase we/I provide was used four or more times. The takeaway? People don’t like being “sold to.”

Avoid too many mentions of your services.  

2. “Payment”

In sales, it’s somewhat difficult to avoid that term entirely, but consider using “monthly amount” as a stand in. As Orlob observed, “Amount” is an objective, neutral word, while “Payment” is emotionally charged.”

3. “Your Company Name”

It’s true, in the end, people don’t really care about who’s paying your salary, or where your office is. They ultimately just want to know who can get the job done. Sure, if you’re lucky enough to work for a premier agency, you can mention that once or twice and it won’t affect your results. But “name dropping” more than 6 times can cause a 19% drop in your ability to close the deal. Instead of using your company's name, just share your understanding of buyer/seller problems, desired results, and value-based observations.

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Words That Sell

Listed here are some of the most influential words and phrases you can use to help get your prospects off the fence and commit to working with you.

1. Money-Back Guarantee, At No Risk to You, Under No Obligation… and so on.

Obviously, there are limitations to how those phrases can be used in certain industries, but some companies have gotten creative to avoid repercussions.

For example, Realty USA offers a 100% money-back guarantee on purchased homes. If buyers aren’t satisfied with the home after they buy it, Realty USA will buy it back for 100% of what the purchaser paid.

Even though there are some restrictions, Merle Whitehead, President and CEO of RealtyUSA and Chairman of Howard Hanna New York understands the benefits of implementing risk-reversal strategy. He says:

“In this age of consumerism, everyone is trying to reduce risk in business transactions. Having a 100% Money Back Guarantee will be a real market differentiator, giving RealtyUSA and its customers a distinct advantage.”

It’s your personal choice what you may be willing and/or able to work into any potential contracts that helps you win more listings, but the statistics speak for themselves: Risk reversal language is a super savvy way to increase your conversions.

2. Fair

Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference, refers to it as the “F-word” and claims it’s the single most powerful word in any negotiation.

Interestingly enough, although the most successful deal-closers absolutely do use this word more often than the average salesperson, stats reveal they use it sparingly throughout their conversations.

Put the power of this word to use when networking with new prospects, but don’t forget that a little goes a long way.

3. Imagine

The power of this word is in the mental pictures it generates when you follow it up with enticing directives. When you use the word “imagine,” you prepare your prospects’ internal stage to come to life with the picture your next words will paint. The power of imagination could have your prospects actively pursuing a course that leads them directly into working with you.

4. Their Name

When somebody knows your name, it leads to the subconscious assumption that they’re more likely to understand you. Really, it’s just human nature to seek connection. When we’ve found that connection, we become “invested” and more inclined to do business with those we’ve connected with.

Wording That Leads to a Close

1. “Which” and “When” vs. “If”

According to the great Elmer Wheeler, author of “Tested Sentences That Sell,” you should always frame your words (especially at the close) so that you give the prospect a choice between something and something, never between something and nothing.

Just like a good lawyer uses leading sentences to draw pertinent information out of a witness, using these questions leads your prospects to take the action you want them to take — working with you. 

Using “if” leaves doubt on the table. When you’re looking to close a deal, using the words “when” or “which” instead takes away that doubt and leads your prospects to work with you. 

2. Questions vs. Exclamations

There are two kinds of salespeople: those who throw huge exclamation marks at their prospects and those who use tactful questions to hook their interest.

People don’t like being beaten over the head with expressive language and overzealous promises. If you just sell, sell, sell without taking the time to gauge the interest of your leads, you may scare away someone who was perfectly willing and excited to work with you.

If you ask the right questions, you can lead your prospects into the answers you’re looking for.

These questions won’t get the results you want.

  • “Would you be interested in X?”
  • “Would you like me to explain X to you?”
  • “How about it?”

These questions can get the answers you want.

  • “You might be wondering what X is all about — aren’t you?”
  • “You like X, don’t you?”
  • “That‟s neat, isn’t it?”
  • “Which of these do you prefer?”
  • “When would you like to X?”

Asking the RIGHT questions, especially at the close, will get you the answers you want.

And when in doubt, try asking a tested question.This is a good method to bring objections out into the open. Whenever your prospects are wavering and tell you some reason for not committing to work with you, ask them why. A lot of prospects will struggle to answer your “why” and find it difficult to put their objections into actual words. 

If you suspect the “reason” your prospect gives you isn’t the real root of their objection, keep pressing them until you find the real one, then ask them this: 

“Is that your ONLY REASON for not buying?”

When you find out their true hesitation, you can address and overcome it.

It’s important never to simply dismiss a customer’s objections. When you show customers you welcome objections, you disarm them.

3. “Approvals,” Not Signatures

When the time comes for you to close the deal, you have to actually ask your prospect to make a decision to work with you. Otherwise, they’ll be left sitting on the fence or walking away. 

Signing papers in general makes people nervous. Signing anything means entering into a firm commitment — and plenty of people have made poor commitments. 

Instead of saying “Sign here,” consider something like, “Place your approval here,” or “This is the place to state your approval,” or “Just put your initials here.” 

Always remember to set out your pen early in the conversation so when they time comes to sign the deal, you won’t jar them by whipping out a pen. This way, when they go to grab for it, it’s because they’re making the decision for themselves, not having it forced upon them. 

When Words Aren’t Enough...

If you don’t feel completely comfortable closing deals with your prospects, practice these techniques and others on people you know and trust and ask for honest feedback. 

And if you’re still not confident in your ability to close a deal with words alone, consider beefing up your presentation with impressive marketing materials. 

Our books do the talking for the sales professionals who use them. You can use your book to bring up talking points, answer any objections, and in general bridge the gap between what you claim to offer and convincing your prospects that you’ll actually deliver. 


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