Sales deals are won and lost with words. Whether it’s the words you use to paint a picture of the rosy future your prospect will live in once they purchase your product, or the accidental slip that offended your buyer and ended the relationship, what you say is critically important to the success of a deal.
Which is why you should stay far, far away from weasel words — words or phrases used to avoid being direct. Sales reps are already fighting an uphill battle to be seen as trustworthy. While you may not be using weasel words to be, well, weaselly, the following eight words and phrases weaken your language and can set off alarm bells in buyers’ heads.
8 Weasel Words and Phrases You Should Never Say
1) “Well … “
When buyers ask you questions, give them straightforward answers. Starting your answer with a word commonly associated with equivocation automatically weakens your answers and makes you sound less sure of yourself.
2) “Research shows … ” / “Experts say … “
Sales reps use these phrases to back up their claims about product usage, business pain, and expected ROI. But you can stick these phrases in front of literally any claim — for example, “Experts say chewing sugarless gum increases concentration” — to make it sound more legitimate. Instead of alluding to faceless, nameless sources, cite your sources if you want to be truly persuasive.
3) “I would say that … “
Many weasel words are only weaselly in context. For example, if a buyer asks, “What’s the best way to do X?” and you have a few options to choose from, you’re well within your rights to qualify your response by indicating it’s your own opinion.
But when you’re being asked a more specific question or one that’s related to your product, steer clear from qualifying phrases, which make it sound like you’re waffling. Answer questions like, “Can your product do X?”, or “I’m trying to do Y project. How can your product help me with this?”, with strong, active language.
Like #2, vague descriptors like “often” raise questions in buyers’ minds. Always be as specific as possible — “40% of our customer base,” or “Almost every prospect in your industry I’ve spoken with in the last quarter”, for example.
5) “Probably” / “Possibly”
It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to something. For example, if your buyer will require a highly customized implementation or is a very unusual use case (yes, you should know the answers to common prospect questions cold), you might not have encountered their specific set of needs before.
Just be honest about it. And don’t leave it at, “I don’t know.” Explain why: “I haven’t encountered your exact question before, and I want to make sure I give you a complete answer before I promise anything. Based on what I’ve seen before: , but again, I want to confirm that before I give you a definitive answer.”
6) “Some” / “Many”
These two words are a bad choice for the same reason you should steer clear of “often.” They don’t add much legitimacy to your statements, and raise more questions than they answer.
When we call upon social proof as an answer, it’s usually because we’re trying to convince people to do something. Instead of saying, “Many of our prospects do X,” explain why they did it, what results they saw, and how that connects to your prospect. Here’s what that sounds like in a real sales conversation:
“You mentioned that you want to see X results. A customer I worked with a few months ago was facing similar challenges. We helped them implement Y and Z projects together and they saw . Given , I think you would see benefits from this strategy as well. What do you think?”
7) “Could be”
Another phrase used to waffle out of giving a direct answer, “could be” makes you sound especially uninformed if you’re trying to explain why something works the way it does or why an event occurred. Take a similar strategy to #5 — provide as much context as you can, then promise to follow up once you have a more concrete answer.
8) “The user” / “The person”
One of the hallmarks of weasel words and phrases is that they create distance between the speaker and the listener so the speaker can remove him or herself from the situation, therefore abdicating responsibility for less-than-desirable results (think politicians’ apology speeches).
Sales reps who use detached language create a sense of distance between their product and the buyer. Always speak directly to the prospect about their situation — “When you use to do , you’ll do X, Y, and Z.” This creates a subconscious sense that the product is already part of a prospect’s world, and is a more engaging way to speak to buyers.
What weasel words have you cut out of your vocabulary? Let us know in the comments below.