Skip navigation
tape-over-mouth.jpg stock_colors/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Nine Words You Should Never Say in Sales

Here's what to say instead.

There are some words and phrases that, in selling to the affluent, should never be used. These verbiage mistakes can kill your positioning, make you seem pushy or showcase a sales-first mentality.

Not only should these words be avoided in sales scenarios, they should be avoided in talks with clients, team members and centers of influence as well. All of these perceptions matter.

Here they are ... the words to avoid, an explanation of why they’ve made our list and some things to say instead:


Why: It dehumanizes your most important contacts. Plus, it makes it seem like they are your “targets,” not the next additions to your client family.

Instead: Try potential client, future client or prospective client.


Why: To them, it’s not an objection. It’s their reason for not moving forward right now. When there are large sums of money in play, expect a longer sales cycle and bumps along the way.

Instead: Try using concern or question.


Why: It cheapens not only your pricing, but your positioning. Saying things like “we can sharpen our pencils” portrays neediness when you could be portraying strength and confidence.

Instead: When it comes to discussing fees, use words like fair, competitive and transparent.


Why: It connotes short-term and transactional. There are no “customers” of elite financial firms. When you offer a Ritz-Carlton level of service, you are “Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentleman.”

Instead: Use clients or families to describe your clientele.


Why: If the statement you’re making is that obvious, you don’t need to state it. Even though you don’t mean it this way, it can show that you don’t think much of their intelligence.

Instead: Use transitions like naturally, of course or as you know.

“Best Clients”

Why: It also prompts people to think about what makes a best client. Their assets? Their personality? Is that me?

Instead: Use phrases like largest, most-complex or longest-standing.


Why: Were you not being honest before? We all know this one should be avoided, but for those who say it subconsciously, it’s a hard habit to break.

Instead: Just cut it. Replacing it with frankly, candidly or sincerely all have the same effect.


Why: Most affluent people don’t feel as if they are affluent. They see affluent as those with more money than they have. After all, some people have airplanes and yachts. That’s not me!

Instead: Use terms like well-off, mention significant assets or describe them by occupation.


Why: If you describe your day as busy or hectic or crazy, you’re giving off the wrong impression. People want to work with those who are productive, yet in control. Scrambling is not a desirable trait.

Instead: Use words like productive and share something meaningful you’ve accomplished.

This list could go on for days, but these are some of the most common and avoidable terms. What parts of your vocabulary could use a tune-up? What about your team? With better language comes better selling.


Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are partners with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.@StephenBoswell@KevinANichols

TAGS: Marketing
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.