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Sales Clichés to Avoid Like the Plague

Sales Clichés to Avoid Like the Plague

Recently I saw a post on LinkedIn that proclaimed to be a “game-changing, disruptive and transformative solution.” I was not surprised to see a post using the “game-changing” sales cliché with zero likes and zero comments. Sales clichés are ineffective if you are the seller and frustrating if you are the buyer. Sales clichés are a mental crutch that causes both parties to suffer. Most of the time, sales reps use clichés out of habit, without thinking about the negative consequences on their reputation with the prospect. In this article, we will explore the negative impact of using sales clichés, the three sales clichés to avoid, and alternative phrases to improve your sales conversation.

Why Clichés Are Toxic

Every communication with a prospect, whether verbal or written, is either moving you closer to the sale or further away from it. In other words, there are no neutral messages. Clichés are not just inefficient, because they waste the prospect’s time, but they take away from the seller’s credibility. Modern selling is about building trust. Trust is earned by sharing information your prospect views as valuable, not what you think sounds smooth. When a prospect hears a sales cliché, their eyes glaze over and they stop paying attention. If prospects are not paying attention to your communication, there is little chance they will pay anything for your product or solution. 

Sales clichés are not just bad communication habits that affect the purchase decision, they also signal a lack of insight from the sales rep. Sellers use clichés because they want to make a point that the buyer will grasp. For example, “Killing two birds with one stone.” But on a sales call with a new prospect, using a sales cliché just shows a lack of empathy for the buyer. Think about what goes through your prospect’s head when they read this tired sales cliché, “let’s jump on a quick call.” The prospect instantly flashes back to every “quick call” that lasted over an hour. At which point the cliché is not just frustrating to the prospect, but it has a negative economic impact on the seller, because it is preventing the desired outcome. 

During your sales call with a new prospect, you want to avoid sounding like the stereotypical sales rep. Avoiding sales clichés is a great first start to build trust and getting clear about what you want to communicate. Sales clichés are vague and vagueness confuses. Below we have identified three sales clichés to avoid at all costs because they are especially bad and harm your sales credibility. If you are in sales, your audience has heard these to the point of nausea. Ignore these sales clichés at your own peril.

Let Me Be Honest

The only thing worse than the salesperson who uses the “let me be honest” phrase is the salesperson who says, “Let me be completely honest.” When a sales rep uses any version of this phrase, the first thing I think is, “Don’t you realize I am going to think you’ve been lying to me.” This phrase needs to be scrubbed from your vocabulary. If the goal of your sales call is to earn the trust of your prospect, actions speak loader than words. Telling prospects that you are being “completely honest” is like saying “trust me.” Rather than building trust, it creates doubt and adds friction to communication.

Instead of saying, let me be honest, try saying, “I’m glad you asked that.” For example, when a prospect asks about price early in the call, the sales rep could respond with “I’m glad you asked that.” This response is assertive, without shying away from the question and making the prospect uncomfortable. Prospects are tired of being told sales reps are honest, instead of telling, show them. 

I’m Just checking in

This sales cliché comes in a variety of forms, including “just checking in” to “I’m sorry to bother you” but it screams desperation. Sales reps use this cliché as an opening for a meeting or call, but prospects will not want to meet with you if you appear desperate. Prospects will only want to meet with you if what you have to say is in their best interest. Starting the conversation with an apology or minimizing your value by saying “just” discounts your value and makes you appear weak. When sales reps use these clichés, it shows they are only thinking about themselves. Selling is not about the seller but about the buyer.

Instead of using a statement such as “I’m just” or “I’m sorry,” ask a question about a problem you can solve for them.  For example,

  • Are you aware…
  • How familiar are you…
  • What’s your take on…

Notice we changed the phrase from an “I” statement to a “You” question. This positions you as an authority because you have information they might not be aware of. Instead of looking desperate, you can offer education on a topic your prospects might not be updated on. Prospects won’t buy because you are checking in. They only buy because you have a solution to their problem. No problem, no purchase. 

So, What Do You Think?

This sales cliché is often used at the end of a presentation. The sales rep covered all the features, every slide on the PowerPoint, and ran out of things to say. This cliché is used because the sales rep is hoping the prospect will be mesmerized by their presentation skills and ready to sign up. Instead, it’s more of a passive-aggressive closing statement. The only reason this cliché is used is because the sales rep was never trained on closing and is seeking approval from the prospect. 

The biggest problem with this question is that it is often the only question the sales rep asks the prospect. Instead of having a business conversation, the prospect heard a monologue. When you have to ask the prospect, “What do you think?” you rarely hear, “This is perfect, I’m ready to get started.” The prospect’s reply is often, “You’ve given us a lot to think about.” Worse, the sales rep goes back to his sales manager and reports the presentation went great and the prospect is interested. In reality, the sales rep has no clue what the problem is the prospect wants to fix.

Instead of asking for an on-the-spot evaluation of your presentation, which is likely going to make your prospect feel uncomfortable if not downright annoyed, be specific and ask for concerns. For example,

  • Do you have any concerns you would feel comfortable discussing? 
  • Do you have any questions I could address for you?

Most buyers do not want to announce on the spot what they think of your product, so don’t put the prospect in an awkward position. 

The Final Word on Sales Clichés

Sales clichés are phrases that have lost their impact and do not move the sale forward. Prospects have heard these clichés so often, they have a negative impact on the sales rep. Much like language phrases lose their effectiveness, so do selling methodologies. Traditional sales training is about having a perfect pitch and persuading prospects to choose your solution by overcoming objections. One problem all traditional sellers share is using sales clichés in their pitch. Modern selling is about uncovering problems and providing solutions to your prospects as their trusted advisor. The best way to accomplish this is not with tired sales clichés and canned pitches, but by asking thought-provoking questions and listening to the answers. The hardest part about selling is not knowing what you are doing wrong. Modern sales training is about uncovering the things that no longer work and finding creative solutions that do.