7 Seemingly Harmless (But Secretly Deadly) Sales Phrases

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Aja Frost
Aja Frost


How much of what you say do you think other people receive and interpret correctly? Seventy-five perent? Ninety?

deadly sales phrases: image shows man covering face with hand

The truth is, we miscommunicate just as often -- if not more -- than we communicate accurately. While that’s a scary thought for any professional, it’s especially relevant to sales. After all, reps spend the majority of their time making phone calls, sending emails, and meeting prospects. In other words, talking to people.

We’d give you the ability to read minds (and thus avoid communication errors) if we could. But technology isn’t quite there yet, so in lieu of that, we’re providing you with seven seemingly harmless -- yet secretly deadly -- phrases. If you want to send the right message, cut these from your lexicon.

7 Terrible Sales Phrases to Drop From Your Vocabulary Right Now

1) “Interesting.”

People love to call things “interesting.” New data? Interesting. Surprising suggestion? Interesting. Counterintuitive fact? Interesting.


Up until a few weeks ago, I was a card-carrying member of the “interesting” camp. But here’s the thing: Since we use “interesting” to describe pretty much everything, the word has lost all its meaning. You can contribute far more to a conversation by actually describing what you think.

Let’s say the prospect reveals her company is in a unique position. Rather than saying, “That’s interesting,” you could say, “Thanks for sharing that information -- most companies in your space experience the opposite. With that in mind … ”

Or if she proposes an unexpected idea, you might reply, “Nice, I hadn’t thought about it from that angle! What if we …”

As you can see, cutting out the “interesting” crutch forces you to be more specific -- and that’s always a good thing.

2) “I trust you’re doing well.”

If “I hope you’re well” scores a five on the spectrum of meaningless cliches, “I trust you’re doing well” is a solid 10.

At least the former suggests some concern for the person’s well-being. The latter, on the other hand, is like saying, “I have no idea how you’re doing, and I’m not going to ask, but let’s just assume everything’s swell.”


Plus, it sounds stiff and overly formal, like it’s the 1800s and you’re penning a letter to your mother-in-law. Not exactly the effect you’re going for.

Switch out this phrase with a reference to something that recently happened in the prospect’s world. For example, if their department just hired two new employees (which you can easily find on LinkedIn or their company blog), you could say, “Congratulations on the new marketing hires.” Or if the prospect just had a work anniversary, say, “Saw you just hit three years at ScaleVid -- way to go!”

Now it’s clear you know they’re doing well, because you’ve done your research. No “hope” or “trust” required.

3) “Don’t worry.”

It’s easy to respond to your prospect’s concerns with a breezy, “Don’t worry!” But telling someone not to be anxious isn’t just ineffective -- it’s patronizing.

And ironically, consciously trying to suppress a specific thought or emotion brings it to the front of your mind. That means your well-meaning reply will actually make the prospect more anxious.


You’ll get much better results by acknowledging how they feel, then proposing a solution.

Imagine your prospect says, “A new coffee shop opened across the street, and they’ve definitely drawn customers away from our cafe.”

Using the two-part framework, you’d respond, “That can be tough. In fact, I had a customer last year in a similar situation -- a sandwich chain bought the space next to their subs joint. To help them stay competitive, I … ”

Showing the prospect that you’re on their side and giving them a potential fix is far more soothing than a cliche.

4) “I know how you feel.”

Expressing empathy is always a good idea. However, reps should steer clear of saying, “I know how you feel” -- after all, unless you’ve coincidentally experienced the exact same thing as the other person, you don’t know how they feel. And the more extreme the situation, the more aggravating this statement becomes.


You can convey the same idea (without sounding presumptuous) with a couple simple swaps.

Try one of these alternatives:

  • “That sounds difficult.”
  • “I can imagine that would be hard.”
  • “That must be challenging.”
  • “That situation seems like it would require [patience, grit, creativity].”

And as you can see from the last example, bringing up a former client who faced something similar is also smart. Not only do you prove that you’re familiar with the issue, but you get to weave in a case study. Win-win.

5) “No problem.”

When it comes to apologies, “No problem” is a perfectly good response. You’re telling the other person no harm, no foul, and you’re ready to move on.


But when someone thanks you, it’s a different story. Saying “no problem” doesn’t just minimize your actions, it implies the prospect’s request was, well, a problem. You’ll immediately lose some of the goodwill you just scored.

Fortunately, the fix is simple: Say “You’re welcome” instead. If you want to switch it up, use “I’m happy to help,” “Glad I could help,” or even “My pleasure.”

6) “As I said before …”

People typically use this phrase as a reminder that they’ve talked about a particular point during an earlier conversation. Unfortunately, the prospect hears, “You’re clearly not smart enough to remember I’ve already covered this, so I guess I have to go over it again.”


To avoid seeming passive-aggressive, skip the qualifier and launch straight into your comment. Here’s an example:

Before:As I said, our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

After: “Our basic package is best for teams with less than four people … ”

Worried about needlessly repeating yourself? Tell the prospect, “Stop me anytime if we’ve covered this to your satisfaction.”

7) Obviously

Salespeople often unthinkingly use this word to point out something that's crystal-clear to them. But if that fact or detail isn't evident to the buyer, the rep seems condescending.

For example, if she's discussing her product's capabilities, she might say, “Obviously, it can't do X or Y, but ... ”


Her prospect will wonder, "Wait, why can't the product do X and Y? Are those functionalities not developed yet? Am I supposed to know about this?"

Use your expertise to deepen your prospect's trust in you, not make them feel stupid or ignorant. Rather than inserting "obviously" into your statements, simply deliver them. The buyer will feel more comfortable asking questions, and you'll avoid coming across as patronizing.

Dropping these phrases from your speech will definitely improve communication with your prospect. However, you’ll also need to pay close attention to their body language, tone of voice, and responses -- so if your message is taken the wrong way, you’ll know in time to do some damage control.

Which phrases do you always see being misinterpreted? Let us know in the comments!

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