I’m sure you’ve heard all of these before, and I also bet you haven’t done much if any business with those who uttered them.

Of all the crappy sales pitches we hear daily, these phrases tend to be heard the most. And sometimes, even good salespeople will fall into their trap and wonder why their deal went dead.

This isn’t exhaustive, but these phrases you should clearly avoid:

1. “I think you’re making a mistake”
A couple weeks ago I literally had a sales rep tell me I was “misallocating budget” by working with their competitor. Nobody wants to think they are wrong, and if you’re explicit about that at the front of the sales process, you’re not doing much to build trust & credibility.

2. “Let me talk to my manager”
Really? Am I buying a car now? Clearly some reps and lead qualification specialists don’t have complete authority to make certain decisions. But I’ve heard this phrase far too often when asking basic questions about a product, its features or flexibility. If you need to go to your manager too often, why am I talking to you?

3. “When can I speak with your manager?”
Most salespeople want to speak with the most senior person possible. But if they make that clear to you, they’re basically telling you that you don’t matter, that they don’t think they can do business with you. Not very respectful.

4. “Tell me more about your company”
Gone are the days when this information wasn’t readily available online, with 2-3 minutes of research time. Few of us have time to do the salesperson’s work for them. It implies that you’re lazy, haven’t done your homework, and probably don’t even know if what you’re selling is even relevant to me.

5. “What do you want to hear?”
Who’s driving this sales call anyway? The sales rep should know enough about my company and situation to direct the conversation somewhere that can help me, provide me some insights, teach me something that will help me be more successful. Leave the conversation too open ended and I’ll have no idea where it should go, get frustrated, and move on.

6. “How can I help you?”
Different question, similar problem. If you don’t know what problem of mine you think you can solve, you’ve already lost.

7. “Is this a good time?”
Unless we’ve set an appointment, it’s never a good time. Plus, this is a great opening for the prospect to take back control of the conversation, say no, and shut you off before you even got started.

8. “You should…”
Later in the sales process, when you’ve already established a deep understanding of the prospect’s business, you may have the respect and authority to use these words. But up front, without that credibility, it makes you sound pompous. You don’t know my business, you don’t know my challenges, and I don’t appreciate you assuming that you do. Good bye.

What are some sales messages or phrases that particularly turn you off?

  • Pete

    “To be honest with you…”
    “What keeps you up at night?”

  • Jack

    # 6 is kind of iffy ! How can I help you, when you go on a sales call, you have no idea what kind of internal problems your prospect has, delivery, pricing, QC, etc..The prospect is seeing you, because maybe you have a better widget, good Q&A should bring out issues
    if done tactfully..To know every client’s product problems is BS..

  • What’s your budget?

  • I use #6 on inbound leads all of the time. Someone calls me or emails in and asks for more info about my product, i respond with some form of “how can we help?” I wouldn’t say this in an opening value prop to a cold prospect, but that doesn’t mean it has no place.

    • Hi Justin,

      #6 seems to be the most controversial of the group! I still don’t like it when people ask the question this generally. Instead of “How can I help”, how about asking something like “How can I help you exceed your sales goals this year?” In other words, ask a more specific question based on the outcome your prospect cares about…

  • “we’re all about building relationships…”
    If you have to say it, it aint true.

  • Karen Marchetti

    How about sales reps I’ve never met before that start off the conversation with the dreaded “how are you today?” This is typically the telltale opening line of an inexperienced telemarketer, and just makes me say to myself, “oh, no, another untrained sales rep . . .” And I wonder why the company they represent can’t even take the time to train their reps properly . . .

    • Brendon

      What exactly are you supposed to say to someone you are meeting for the first time?

      • There are a bunch of more intelligence, informed questions you can ask someone at the start of a conversation. If you’re making a sales call, the least you can do is 15-20 seconds of research on their LinkedIn profile to find something you can use as an ice-breaker that has relevance to the prospect.