When I became a sales manager, I went from focusing on the words I used with prospects to the ones I used with my salespeople.

Some phrases are incredibly demotivating -- and sales managers don’t even realize it.

To help your team hit its goals, you need to eliminate these six no-good phrases from your repertoire. They’ll get a reaction from your salespeople, but not the type you’re hoping for.

1. “Low-hanging fruit”

This term drive salespeople up the wall -- and for good reason. If you say a prospect, opportunity type, or sale is “low-hanging fruit,” “a lay-up,” or “a bunny,” you’re implying that anyone could do the job. The reality is, even sales-ready leads require skill, energy, and time to close.

Managers who use this team therefore seem ignorant, out-of-touch, or unappreciative of the work their reps do.

What if you want to promote selling a certain product or buyer persona? Use factual lines instead, such as, “We’re seeing strong demand for the new lower-priced offering,” or “The sales process should be relatively efficient with X type of prospect.”

These statements give your salespeople a reason to pursue those sales without devaluing their process or abilities.

2. “I need a little extra this month.”

Nothing is less effective than hearing a manager say she “needs a little extra” or that her reps “should really step it up this month” multiple months in a row.

After all, they know that whether or not they hustle in February, she’ll be asking them to pull it out again in March … and April … and May.

I recommend using this line no more than twice per year. If you’re repeating it because your team is continually missing quota, either your quota is too high or there’s an issue with your sales process.

3. “It’s out of my hands.”

Don’t play the “get out of jail free” card. With this line, you’re effectively saying: “I’m powerless.”

Not only is this discouraging to your rep, but it also undermines your professional credibility. They’ll automatically respect you less.

In addition, it’s a manager’s responsibility to help their salespeople solve problems -- and this line is the opposite of helpful.

You might not have direct control over a decision, but you need to figure out who does, find that person, and discuss the decision with them.

Rather than saying, “This is out of my hands,” tell your salesperson the steps you’re going to take. Give a rough timeline and the most likely result as well to manage their expectations.

For example, “I hear that you’re frustrated about the way those deals were counted. I’m not hopeful we can reverse it, but let’s bring this to resolution. I’m going to schedule a meeting with Dakota sometime next week and will follow up with you after.”

4. “This doesn’t apply to [rep].”

Want to make the entire sales team feel hostile toward your top-performing salespeople? Give public exemptions. Announcing something like, “We’re having a prospecting workshop tomorrow morning everyone must attend -- except for Carole and Hiran” destroys team spirit and aggravates the reps not getting special treatment.

Carole and Hiran won’t be happy either, because you’re giving their peers a reason to resent them.

It’s fine to tell specific salespeople a policy or event doesn’t apply to them, but do it behind closed doors -- and make sure it’s necessary.

5. “I know, the new comp plan is unfair.”

Sales managers should understand sometimes there are easy messages to deliver, and sometimes there are hard ones.

However, even if you disagree with an initiative, it doesn’t help anyone to take your salespeople’s side against your company’s leadership. You’ll encourage dissatisfaction among your reps without giving them any means of reducing it. If you can’t influence a decision, they definitely won’t be able to. Furthermore, you’ll make them doubt the company’s mission and purpose -- which hurts their ability to sell.

Learn to position changes or decisions so they’re in the company’s best interest, the team’s best interest, down to the individual rep’s best interest.

6. “Honestly”

I tell salespeople never to say “Honestly” or “I’ll be honest with you” to their prospects, and I give the same directions to sales managers.

These phrases cast a shadow on everything else you’ve said. If you’re straightforward 100% of the time, there’s no need to call attention to one part of the conversation.

Instead, deliver your message and then pause. You’ll make your reps sit up and pay attention, giving you the same impact as saying “Honestly” without harming your trustworthiness.

Sales managers, are there any terms or phrases you've stopped using with your sales team? Let me know in the comments.

HubSpot CRM

Originally published Mar 10, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated August 15 2017


Sales Management