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The 6 Dumbest Phrases Sales People Used in 2015

the 6 dumbest phrases sales people used in 2015

Now that we’ve (hopefully) all recovered from a weekend of New Year’s festivities, let’s take stock of the damage done to our sales lexicon in 2015, with eye on improving for 2016.

We all know that sales people love to talk. Whether you’re an SDR, BDR, Inside Sales Rep, or Field Rep, one of our biggest challenges (us included) is just shutting up. Furthermore, there is a big misunderstanding that everyone seems to looking past when it comes to the best attributes of a sales person.

Many people think that the single most important thing that a sales person should have is the ability to close. We disagree with this statement down to its very core. The single most important attribute a sales person can have is to be an effective communicator. If you can communicate effectively, then the sales should follow.

Which brings us to the point of this post. At The Harris Consulting Group, we see and hear a lot of things when coaching and speaking with sales people, and all too often many of these words do more harm than good. In fact, they should never be uttered during any part of the sales process or sales conversations. So here is a list of some of the best of the worst we heard in 2015.

We challenge everyone to stop making these silly statements and work on doing what you were hired to do in the first place: being an effective communicator.


# 6 – “Don’t worry it only takes five minutes to install”

Every time we hear a sales rep say this, it truly churns our stomachs. This does not make you different, in fact it actually makes you sound just like everyone else.  

It typically comes up in one of two ways:

  1. The Sales Rep Says It – There is no reason a sales rep should bring this up unless the prospect asks.  If the prospect hasn’t asked how long it takes to install, then it’s a complete non-issue. Additionally, how long it takes to install something only matters when the prospect has bought in completely on the pain your solution solves. Any discussion of installation before the prospect says they want your product is most likely premature.
  2. The Prospect Asks – So this is the funny one in our opinion. Often times when a prospect asks this question, there are two dialogues occurring simultaneously. The first conversation is in the sales rep’s mind, it “sounds like” a buying signal. So the sales rep wants to answer the question in the most affirmative way possible. They also want to make sure the prospect feels like it’s the simplest solution. Unfortunately, in most cases this is the wrong mindset and wrong thing to assume. The other conversation is going on in the prospects head and it could be what the rep is thinking but in many cases is something completely different.

What the sales person should be doing is answering the question truthfully, but then following up with a question about why that matters to the prospect? What made them ask that question at this point?

For example, the prospect may be asking simply because they want to know how they will assign the resources for installing as opposed to comparing the installation time between vendors. Without knowing why the prospect asked this question, or any other question for that matter, you are merely a dog and pony show.


# 5  – “Machine Learning Algorithm”

Just because you have a machine learning algorithm does not differentiate you in the least. In fact, unless you are the only person doing what you do, who are you to say your algorithm is better than your competitors? Unless you are a real data scientist, most people in the room don’t even know what machine learning algorithm even means. It has become as common and overused as the word unicorn has become in the startup lexicon.

So here’s the deal, unless you are actually willing to show us your Pythagorean Theorem, we’d rather you say something like this, although perhaps not as crass:

“I know we have a ton of smart people building our platform, and in fact we have 50+ customers using it on a daily basis. So if you want to ask me anything about the value of our product or service, please do so. I’d love to share everything. And if I do not know the answer I will find it out for you personally and get back to you. So yeah, we do have some fancy machine learning algorithm, but honestly, the easiest thing to say is that our shit works and if it didn’t we wouldn’t have the customers we already have. Now if you don’t mind me asking, how does understanding the working nature of the algorithm actually affect our ability to do business?”


# 4 – “What keeps you up at night?”

This one actually makes us throw up in our mouths just a little. This question may actually differentiate you from your competitor. Unfortunately, it will be in their favor, not yours. We are genuinely shocked when we hear sales people ask this question, which seems to have lasted well beyond its use in the 1990s.  

In today’s world, it’s expected that a sales rep know their prospects’ pains and challenges better than the prospect themselves. Furthermore, you should be asking more questions around why things keep them up at night, not what keeps them up at night. Please, for the love of all that is holy to sales, stop asking this ridiculous question.


# 3 – “I will take off my salesperson’s hat and speak directly to you.”

You mean you’ve been a lying a-hole all this time?! Seriously, this one just makes us downright angry. If you are the sales person who actually says this, it’s your fault the rest of us have a bad reputation.

And yes, I am talking to you, car salesman who I met with last week and actually spawned this post! It was literally that line that made me just walk away from you. In good conscience, I cannot allow you to earn a commission from me. No matter how much I want that vehicle, my disdain for you overrides my own personal needs, wants, and desires.


# 2 – “Does That Make Sense?”

So this is a new one that seems to have been born in this latest start-up bubble. Like many of the other phrases mentioned here, it probably started with good intentions. And just like all other things with good intentions, it eventually went sour.

We believe that because of this round of technological advances in SaaS offerings and the complexity with which they work, one may want to confirm with the prospect that they understand. However, what has happened is that during the presentation of every pitch deck (which is a terrible waste of time BTW), the standard go-to phrase has become “Do you understand the image on the slide I have shown you with the words printed and me just regurgitating them so I feel like I know what I am doing?”

What might be better to ask is, “Do you have any questions at this point?” Or better yet, don’t ask anything and just move along in your conversation.

#1 – “Like” (and its cousin “Literally”)

Oh brother! We are all guilty of this one. Many people think this word originated back in the 80s, and depending on which century you’re referring to, you might be right. While most people associate “like” with with Moon Unit Zappa’s “Valley Girl”, in actuality it has been documented all the way back to 1886 in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped, with the line, “‘What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.”

Regardless of your thoughts, though, there are two simple definitions in the English language for the word “like”:

  • Similarity – It’s blue like the color of the sky.
  • Enjoyment – I like chocolate chip cookies.

That’s it, no other proper uses. So…like, stop saying it, ok?

What are some of the words and phrases you’d like to see sales people stop using on a regular basis?

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