Three Words You Should Never Say in Sales

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Yosemite National Park, California; photo by the author

Most everyone is familiar with George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television (not linked because it’s decidedly NSFW). Times have changed since 1972—for one thing, Zenith predicts that time spent using the Internet will overtake time spent watching television in 2019—but most if not all of Carlin’s seven words are still considered uncouth.

Every sales leader has his or her list of words that are pet peeves—words that they don’t want their reps using with prospects. A Google search for “words you should never say in sales” yields 250 million results. I suppose this post makes 250 million and one.

There are three words that I dislike hearing in sales. They are basically, effectively, and essentially.

  • Basically, we’re a replacement for your current solution.
  • Effectively, we integrate with your existing tech stack.
  • Essentially, our software helps manage your department.

These are real lines that I’ve been fed by salespeople. Each one has gotten a similar response from me:

  • Well, are you or aren’t you?
  • Well, do you or don’t you?
  • Well, does it or doesn’t it?

Basically, effectively, and essentially often mean “kind of.” We’re a replacement for your current solution… so long as you keep doing A, B, and C on your own. We integrate with your existing tech stack… but you’re going to need to write and maintain a lot of custom code. Our software helps manage your department… well, you get the idea.

The thing is, buyers are smart and naturally skeptical. Seller equivocation is spotted easily, and is damaging, particularly during evangelical sales. Buyers would much prefer that you be on the level with them. Your product either does or doesn’t do something. Own it.

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Written by

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

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