Things you should never say to a prospect

I try my best to be polite when people call trying to sell me stuff, but really … If we’ve never met or spoken before, don’t ask me how I am. The level of insincerity involved in this is off the chart!

It’s also a really boring, time wasting question to have to answer. It produces a physical reaction in me such as slumping in my chair in frustration.

Just get straight to the point, tell me who you are and why you are calling and ask if it’s OK to continue. I’ll either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If it’s ‘no’ then you weren’t going to succeed anyway. You cannot create a need that doesn’t exist.

So understanding needs will save you a huge amount of time. This comes before the persuasion.

And don’t ask for 5 minutes of my time and then try to speak for 50.

Whilst we are on it … it’s not actually all about what you say; it’s about what I say in response. And how well you respond to it. The old ‘acknowledge what they said, and then carry on as you were’ is not effective.

Here is a fun list of words that you shouldn’t say to prospects. Bingo anyone?

  • ‘Normal’ … Who wants normal? It’s not about what ‘normal’ people do. It’s about what I do and whether or not your product has any relevance to me.
  • ‘I appreciate that but’ … this is argumentative. And the people who say this almost always do not appreciate what I just told them.
  • ‘Satisfied’ … Wow. How ambitious.
  • ‘What I can do is’ … This is another way of saying ‘You can’t have what you want. Which of course will be necessary in some cases. But it’s not a great basis for closing a sale.
  • ‘For you’. When people over use this it can be really grating. We all know how business works. You work for you and I work for me. There is no altruism involved.
  • ‘Can you do this FOR ME’? Eh … maybe. Depends if I like you ….
  • ‘Myself’ / ‘yourself’. No, it doesn’t sound posher than ‘me’ and ‘you’. It sounds ridiculous. I judge you a little every time you do it. And I’m not sorry.
  • ‘Unfortunately’. A doom mongering, awful word. (Mainly because it’s usually followed by an explanation that you can’t have what you want). This can be avoided through expectation management.
  • ‘I’m afraid …’ (same reason).
  • ‘The problem is …’ (and again – unless you have a great solution to this problem … and as long as you didn’t cause it!)
  • ‘Obviously’. If it was obvious, you wouldn’t need to say it. It’s a filler word. It’s also presumptuous and usually followed by an explanation of how wrong the other person is.
  • ‘Sorry to keep you’. It may be really simple, but ‘Thanks for holding’ really is better.
  • ‘I can’t divulge that information’ (usually in reference to something that isn’t confidential, they just don’t want to tell you). There are far less patronizing ways of saying this.
  • ‘You’ve come through to the wrong department.’ (How is that my fault?)
  • Anything that involves telling the prospect what to do.
  • Anything that is about your internal procedures – this is just not the prospect or customer’s  business. This is often the most obvious sign of a major training need.
  • ‘No other company does this either’ – a classic retort to assure the prospect or customer that they are not getting what they want. But this is a ridiculous thing to say since being different from competitors is the job of a decent business.
  • Dehumanizing words such as ‘Policyholder’ / ‘the insured’ / even (controversially) ‘the patient’. If you think these kinds of internal jargon don’t impact on a) Attitudes to customers and b) the language used with customers / prospects as well, then you are kidding yourself. It’s fine to use such words in legal documents, but if they are used in day to day discourse, this is a cultural problem. If your business doesn’t treat people who buy stuff from you (directly or indirectly) as customers, then you have a serious problem.
  • Overuse of the prospect’s name – another really insincere trait.

I’m certain that if these negative terms are swapped for positive ones then great transformation and vast reductions in wasted time result. Partly because you won’t effectively change them if it’s superficial. Force of habit is too strong. You’ll change them if you change beliefs.

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