Welcome to “The Pipeline” — a new weekly column from HubSpot, featuring actionable advice and insight from real sales leaders
Top salespeople are successful because they sweat the details. They probe for pain, help their prospects, and run effective sales calls. They listen closely to what their prospects say, effectively determine the right solution, and ask for help when they need it.
Top reps are articulate, assertive, and direct. And most importantly, they don’t use “weasel words” — words or phrases that subliminally undermine their credibility.
As a salesperson, you might let one of those phrases slip from time to time to seem flashy or important, but prospects can see right through them — undermining the trust you're developing and impacting your ability to close. Every word you say to a prospect is an opportunity to bolster or weaken your credibility, so top salespeople choose their words carefully.
Below are the top six phrases that undermine your credibility.
6 Phrases That Undermine Credibility and Your Ability to Close
1. “Trust me.”
Fun fact — “Trust me” roughly translates to “I'm a bonehead” in sales.
It‘s a phrase that calls to mind the old-time salespeople you see in infomercials hawking detergent at 3:00 a.m. on cable. It’s passive-aggressive by nature, and it makes you come off as disingenuous (or even slimy).
Sales is, in large part, the art of establishing trust in a tight window — so ideally, you can prove that you're a trustworthy, helpful, consultative resource for your prospect relatively quickly.
If a prospect already trusts you, there shouldn‘t be any need to say this — they’ll implicitly put stock in your words without you telling them to.
It also comes across as a condescending brush-off. Saying “Trust me” gives the impression that you’re glossing over something, don’t really want to explain the answer to your prospect’s question, or think they won’t understand it. It’s a deflection tactic that will arouse suspicion in your prospects, who will think, “What are they hiding from me?"
2. “To be honest ... ”
Everything that’s wrong with the phrase “Trust me” applies here as well. But saying “To be honest ... ” has additional problems.
Your prospects will think, “Wait, what? So they weren't being honest in the first 25 minutes of the call?”
Honesty should be a given in any sales conversation. It's not something that needs to be explicitly called out. When you clarify that now you're telling the truth, you throw all of your other conversations into a suspicious light.
3. "Hmm ... I think we can do that."
There's always a definitive yes or no answer to the question, “Can you do this?” There's no room for “probably” in sales.
It's okay to be uncertain — although you want to try to have all your bases covered as far as potential requests and objections go — but you can‘t glide over a prospect’s question and leave it unanswered.
If you don‘t have an immediate answer to a prospect’s question, don't come off as dismissive and incompetent by saying, “I don't know, maybe.” Instead, acknowledge that your prospect has asked you an interesting question — and that's not an abstract suggestion. Literally say the words, “That's a great question!”
Let them know that you hear them. Assure them that you‘ll find the answer ASAP and that you’ll pass it along with follow-up resources for additional context. Don‘t undermine yourself by waffling on whether you can or can’t do something, and definitely don't make up an answer that might be wrong.
An incorrect answer that you give now will be far more damaging to your authority than having your prospect wait a few hours for the right one.
4. “Are you the decision-maker?”
Asking this question is up there with the most flagrant offenses in all of sales. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but anyone who uses this phrase should get dragged out of the field immediately and forever.
Okay, that might be overkill — but explicitly asking a prospect about their decision-making authority is still really, really bad. It's one of the easiest ways to make a prospect uncomfortable.
If they‘re not the sole decision-maker, you’re going to put them off. You‘re also implying that they’re not worth talking to unless they have that kind of authority — and that's just flat-out shortsighted and rude.
This question is patronizing, irritating, and as “weaselly” as it gets. Avoid it at all costs!
5. Any industry jargon or acronyms.
As a salesperson, you’re immersed in your own industry. You’re familiar with all the lingo and inside language. But remember that the acronyms and phrases you take for granted are probably foreign to your prospects.
Don’t get myopically focused on what you know and assume that your prospect is on the same page. You should be able to explain these concepts in a simple way, so do it! Using jargon might make you feel smart, but it’s just going to confuse your prospect.
There’s too much chance in sales to risk screwing up a deal because you chose your words sloppily. Always aim to be open, honest, and forthright — and avoid words and phrases that will endanger your prospect relationships and your reputation.
6. “We don't normally do this, but … ”
You might think that you‘re impressing your prospect with this one. On the surface, it kind of seems like a little "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" that makes them feel special — like you’re telling them, “I like you more than our other prospects.”
But prospects can see through this trick. They immediately wonder, “How many people have they said this to?” It‘s a particularly weaselly "weasel word." They’re not going to feel cool because you‘re claiming they’re getting special treatment — they're going to roll their eyes.
Leave “Weasel Words” at the door.
The phrases listed here are all underscored by some common themes — namely, they're all cheap and they all reflect a lack of faith in your sales acumen and value proposition.
They reflect a certain insecurity — showing that you have to resort to tricks and gimmicks when trying to develop the trust you need to successfully navigate a sales engagement. And in doing so, you wind up undermining your authority and coming off as sleazy or incompetent.
Avoid these phrases, and instead, project sincere confidence in your ability and offering. Speak directly, empathetically, and assertively — and establish yourself as the valuable, consultative resource prospects will ultimately want to buy from.