8 Sales Terms Reps Should Stop Using ASAP

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Michael Pici
Michael Pici



In sales, your words have a huge impact. Case in point: Gordon Sinclair discovered his restaurant was losing $900,000 each year due to customers who made reservations and never showed up, so he instructed employees to change their response.

They previously told guests, “Please call us if you change your plans.”

Now they asked, “Will you please call us if you change your plans?”

Because this question required a verbal commitment, customers were less cavalier about canceling with no warning. Sinclair’s no-show rate decreased from 30% to 10%.

This example proves you should be deliberate about your word choice. If you truly want to embrace inbound selling (and the success that comes with it), replace these seven old-school sales terms with more buyer-friendly language.

8 Sales Terms Reps Should Stop Using

1) “Lead”

Many teams use “lead” to refer to potential buyers. However, calling people “leads” is dehumanizing. Let’s use terms that remind us sales is ultimately a conversation between two or more people.

Here are some alternatives:

  • “Potential customer”
  • “Prospective partner”
  • “Future client”
  • “Possible collaborator”
  • “Interested buyer”
  • “Company/person we’re considering doing business with”

2) “Sales rep”

Modern-day sales roles are incredibly challenging. To win new business, we must identify unique ways to help our customers succeed. We also have to deal with complicated buying processes and a growing number of stakeholders for every deal. Add these challenges to the ones we already experience -- getting our prospects’ attention, differentiating our products, staying up-to-date on our market, and more -- and we’ve got one of the toughest careers out there.

So why do we devalue ourselves with the title “sales rep”? I prefer “salesperson,” “advisor,” “consultant,” or “[product type] expert.” These titles show more respect for the position and the role we play in shaping our buyers’ futures.

3) “Sales Pitch”

“Show up and throw up” doesn’t work. When salespeople spend the majority of a meeting droning on about their product’s features, their audience tunes out. To engage buyers and actually make an impact, make your presentations interactive. That means frequently asking questions and actually listening to the answers, then asking follow-up questions or tailoring your points accordingly.

“Sales pitch” describes the one-way, seller-focused presentation of the past. I suggest modern salespeople use “conversation” instead. If your call goes as planned, you’ll be having a real discussion, not delivering a pitch.

4) “Negotiation”

Don’t walk into a negotiation with the mindset that your prospective client is your opponent. Effective negotiators think of the other participants as their allies.

If you manage to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome, you’ll both walk out happy. And remember, the relationship isn’t over when they sign the contract -- your ability to retain and/or upsell them depends on their long-term satisfaction.

5) “Sales Process”

Interactions with prospects should be collaborative and consultative. You are working together to create a custom solution to their problem, not rigidly forcing them through a series of steps.

That’s why I prefer “buyer’s journey” or “buying process” over “sales process.” The latter doesn’t accurately describe how you and the buyer go from an initial conversation to an agreement.

Using this term also makes prospects feel like they’re being sold to. Most people dislike being wheedled or manipulated into a purchase -- understandably so. You’ll unintentionally associate yourself with the stereotype of the smooth-talking, untrustworthy sales rep.

Finally, “sales process” implies you are the only one driving the relationship forward. Although you should be in control, your prospect should have agency as well. Suppose the buyer wants to talk about your product’s features on the first call. Your sales process requires you to define their challenges and determine their budget before you mention your offering at all, so you evade their questions.

Sure, you’ve followed your process to a tee -- but the buyer is frustrated they can’t get the information they need. They opt to work with someone who will give them the information they need, when they need it, meaning you never even advance to the next stage of your sales process.

6) “Value Proposition”

It is important to understand and communicate the value of your product. But avoid the term “value proposition.” First, your product doesn’t have any inherent value. If its user doesn’t have a relevant problem to solve or opportunity to capitalize on, your offering is useless.

Second, “value prop” assumes all of your buyers will see the same value. That is simply not true: Each buyer is unique and will utilize your product in different ways. It's your responsibility to figure out how each customer can use the offering to its fullest potential.

7) “Budget”

Budget can be extremely limiting. Either a prospect has the money, or they don’t. Your product could check every box on their list. Yet without the right budget, a purchase is impossible.

Replace “budget” with “ability to buy.” The second concept is far less restrictive. While people normally come up with their current budget based on last year’s budget, their ability to buy depends on the issues or opportunities they’re seeing.

Next time you’re discussing the financial details of a deal with a prospective client, say “What’s your ability to buy X?” instead of “What’s your budget?”

8) “Discount”

Discounts comes with baggage. Offering your prospect a discount associates your company with cheap and -- when offered too freely -- devalues your product/service. There's usually room for movement on price, but don't refer to it as a "discount."

Replace "I think we can offer you a discount" with, "Do you see price being a major obstacle to this purchase?" Once you've established that answer, you can ask "What would be a reasonable discount?"

This allows your prospect to name their price and shields you from naming a lower price first. It's also a gauge of how your prospect views your product/service. If their price is too low, you might want to rethink how you're communicating the value of your product.

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