15 Words and Phrases Making You Sound Irritatingly Salesy

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Aja Frost
Aja Frost



Prospects run for the hills when reps go into full-on “selling” mode. No one enjoys being pressured, manipulated, or wheedled into making a purchase -- and thanks to the availability of information online, prospects no longer have to put up with this behavior to learn basic product details.

One of the simplest ways you can sound less salesy? Cut cheesy or inauthentic words and phrases from your messaging. Whether you’re communicating with a buyer in an email, on the phone, or in person, steer clear of these terms.

1) “Guaranteed”

Almost nothing in life is guaranteed -- except for the return policies advertised on cheesy infomercials. Unless reps want buyers to associate them with late-night TV, they should give a wide berth to words like “guarantee” that suggest absolute promises.

2) “Pitch”

Some reps offer to give prospects their “pitch,” calling to mind salespeople who travel door to door delivering canned speeches. Needless to say, it’s not a flattering comparison.

The most successful reps plan and deliver thoughtful presentations that speak directly to their specific audience and encourage participation. Calling these “pitches” creates the wrong expectation.

3) “Cheap”

It’s always dangerous to make price a selling point -- referring to the product as “cheap” is even riskier. Some buyers will be attracted to the low cost, but the rep will cast an inevitable shadow over her offering. A product’s price won’t create value for the customer, so emphasizing cost sounds salesy. The descriptor “cheap” is also rarely used in conjunction with “high-quality,” “enduring,” “well-crafted,” or any of the other characteristics that make a purchase appealing.

4) “Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”

It’s also pretty difficult to take reps seriously when they brag about a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Unless their company’s offering a significant one-time promotion or has developed a product unlike anything else on the market, the opportunity probably isn’t unique.

5) “Innovative”

“Innovative” has been overused to the point that it’s lost all meaning. To avoid sounding like they’re straight out of Silicon Valley, salespeople should delete this word from their emails. It’s more effective to explain why a product is special or different and let prospects draw their own conclusions.

6) “Prospect”

It’s fine to use the word “prospect” internally, but reps should never directly address buyers by this title. Being called a “prospect” will make them feel like just another opportunity in a funnel. Opt instead for “client,” which sound less salesy.

7) “!”

Print ads, coupons, and flyers are some of the worst offenders when it comes to overusing exclamation marks -- which means this type of punctuation smacks of salesiness. To avoid sounding overexcited or inauthentic, salespeople should stick to periods and question marks.

8) “Feature”

Prospects don’t care about a product’s features or technical details -- they only care how it will enhance their lives. Imagine you’re buying a new car. Are you picturing the tires, built-in navigation, and heated seats? Or are you picturing the trips you’ll take?

Instead of using the word “feature” (and reminding buyers you’re focused on the sale), highlight your product’s benefits.

9) “Incredible,” “amazing,” “fantastic,” “wonderful,” “cutting-edge,” etc.

Successful salespeople are passionate about their product, so it might feel appropriate to describe it with superlatives like “incredible” and “fantastic.” But buyers usually view these hyperbolic statements with skepticism. If the rep’s offering is really as marvelous as she claims, why is she pushing it so hard? For that reason, salespeople should tell a story of how prospects can benefit from the product and leave the hyperbole at the door.

10) “Coupon,” “promotion,” “discount,” “sale,” etc.

Using “coupon,” “promotion,” “discount,” “sale,” or any other price-related term is like boarding an express train to Desperation-ville. After all, if cost is the only factor distinguishing a product from the competition’s, it can’t be that great. Discounts have a place in the buying process -- but only after the buyer has realized the value of the purchase.

11) “[Prospect name]”

Research shows a person’s brain lights up when they hear or read their own name. That’s why addressing a prospect by name helps grab their attention. However, reps shouldn’t go overboard with the name-dropping: If they use their prospect’s name every other sentence, they’ll come across as patronizing or forced rather than friendly.

Wondering how much is too much? In general, salespeople should use a buyer’s name once every four sentences at most.

12) “Most”

Saying “most” -- as in, “most financiers … ” or “most SMB owners … ” -- can quickly damage a rep’s credibility. Unless he has hard data backing up his claim, he’ll sound like he’s bluffing or exaggerating.

Every time salespeople catch themselves saying “most,” they should pause and ask themselves: “Can I prove this?” If the answer is no, the word “some” is a better choice.

13) “Superior quality”

This line might sound nice, but it has virtually no meaning. Is the quality superior to the other options on the market? The old version of the product? Why is it superior, and in what ways? Concrete details are always more persuasive than vague ones.

14) "Price" and "cost"

Usually, referring to your product's sticker price is unwise. The initial investment is typically far outmatched by its ROI -- but when you say "The price is X" or "Package A costs Y," all your prospect can focus on are those dollar signs. 

Make sure you're having a conversation about value, not price, by using phrases such as, "upfront investment," "monthly amount," and so on.

15) "Customer-oriented"

Your organization should be all about its customers. However, you won't sound convincing when you use this term. Jargon never helps your case; it only gives the impression you're lifting your talk track straight from the company website.

Need a replacement? Try giving an example of how you put customers first. For instance, you might say, "Every member of our team -- including the executives -- spends one month per day manning our help desk to keep us in touch with our customers and empathetic to their challenges."

Drop these words and phrases from your lexicon to make your communication style less salesy. 

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