Sales Word of the Day: Prospect

Emma Brudner
Emma Brudner




"Grandma," "Granny," "Gram" -- there are a lot of endearing terms to choose from when it comes to grandmothers.

Slightly less endearing but equally as accurate is "the woman who raised my mother." But would you call your grandmother by this term?

"Great Thanksgiving dinner, Woman Who Raised My Mother. Would you like help with the dishes, Woman Who Raised My Mother?"

No one in their right minds would address their sweet old granny this way (unless you really don't get along). It's clinical, devoid of emotion, and self-serving. This appellation makes it clear that your grandmother's value only extends to how her life has directly impacted yours. And she hopefully means much more to you than that.

Similarly, if you're in sales, a prospect means more than the label implies. A prospect is someone you'd like to help. Someone whose business you're interested in. Someone who you share interests with, and want to work alongside during the highs and the lows.

So why would you address them as a "prospect" to their face? To be clear, I'm not talking about a salesperson greeting a potential buyer with, "Hi, prospect!" instead of their name. But the label can worm its way into your conversation in sneaky ways. 

"Other prospects have liked this feature ... "

"I have a call with another prospect after this ... "

"Where I think you differ from most prospects I speak to is ... "

Each of these phrases indirectly terms the person you're meeting with a "prospect." And this can sound an awful like "Deal I Need To Make Quota" or "Potential Commission Check." 

Among your peers in sales and with your manager, using the term "prospect" makes sense for the sake of clarity. But referring to a prospect as such when you're talking with them is a major no-no.

However, sales consultant and speaker  takes it even a step further. She argues that even mentally categorizing buyers as "prospects" has a negative impact on a salesperson's perspective.

"Do you think of your potential buyers as prospects? What picture does this generate in your brain? What actions do you associate with finding prospects? Do those actions (sales skills) possibly make the prospect an object of your desire? Have you unintentionally devalued that individual sitting across the table from you?" she writes in this post.

There are many terms you can swap "prospect" with, including "future customer," or "potential partner." Don't cheapen a relationship you worked hard to build by making your buyer feel as if you're envisioning a giant dollar sign on their foreheads. The people you work with should mean more than money, and if they don't, you might want to switch careers.

Verdict: Not recommended.

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Topics: Inbound Sales

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