Avoiding the Sales Clichés That Prevent Business!

I hate sales clichés! I have always really had an aversion to them – and for good reason. They lack any real value and in the end say nothing. They are just words that have been so overused that no one listens. They get lost, and I believe that they can inhibit sales because they are empty.

I have been asking people for a while what their least favorite sales clichés are, and I am now proud, excited, and amused to announce “Todd’s Prohibited Sales Cliché List of 2012-2013.” The best part of this list is that it is not exhaustive. I am SURE that there are many, many more out there, and I invite you to share them with me. Ready?

My Top 7 Sales Clichés to Avoid (in order of how nauseous they make me)

Sales Cliche #1. “Trusted advisor.” Seriously? I think this one is the worst. People who have anything to say about anything tell me that they want to be my “trusted advisor” – and after only ONE meeting! I can’t help but wonder What makes you think that any of my trusted advisors are people that I meet right away OR that I don’t know very well? Recently, I was at a networking event and I met a fellow selling insurance plans who said to me that he had THE “secret to sales.” Needless to say, I was quite intrigued and asked him what it was. He looked at me with a perfectly straight face and replied, “I am everyone’s trusted advisor.” He then went on to let me know that he had heard that term recently in sales training and was “told” to use it with everyone.

Sales Cliche #2. “Let me be honest” and all of the derivations, including “To tell you the truth” and “Let me be frank.” What more can I say about the obvious pitfalls of using this and actually trying to keep a straight face? Do I look like someone who wakes up and says “I want to buy from someone who is dishonest”?

Sales Cliche #3. “Just between us.” UGH. This has slimy written all over it and reeks of insincerity. It then gets worse and worse with the sexist overtones such as “Just between us boys” when the audience is both male and female.

Sales Cliche #4. “Let me be sincere.” See number two. I feel like saying “Actually, I will feel much better if you are insincere with me.” I am so much more likely to buy from you or hire you. NOT. If you tell me that you are being sincere or honest, then I automatically think you are not or that what you are saying is suspect.

Sales Cliche #5. “I know….” This one is a bit more delicate and subtle. When conducting a sales campaign or a job interview or any conversation, the timing of this term is critical. If you use it too quickly, you seem as if you are not listening, and it is a way of getting your words in at the wrong time. Many times the use of “I know” indicates that you may not be listening as closely as you need to be, and it becomes a cliché and not a statement of fact.

Sales Cliche #6. “Paradigm shift.” I first heard this in the ’90s. It made me think then. It makes me kind of ill now. It is a contrived term that just makes people look at you funny and think, “What the heck did he just say?”

Sales Cliche #7. “I’m laser focused.” NO – I want to you to be only partially focused on the situation at hand. Please give me only some of your attention. Will full attention cost me more?

Want to have fun? The next time you are dealing with someone, count the number of times you hear these sales clichés and tell the person speaking that you want a discount for each occurrence. See if you can get to the point where the person will pay you to buy from him or her!

There you have it. Seven of the worse sales clichés I know…and there are literally hundreds of them. I am a strong believer that when you use these terms, they weaken your sales campaign and you as a person. So how do we make the same points and not use these awful terms? It’s simple – listen more, and just have a conversation and an exchange like you would with anyone you don’t feel you need to be “on” for. In other words – be yourself, and people will be more comfortable with you and more likely to buy, hire, or engage you.

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20 thoughts on “Avoiding the Sales Clichés That Prevent Business!”

  1. Thank you for the great remarks.
    I agree with you 100%.
    Be yourself- is my Motto.
    Best regards.

  2. Doug O'Connell

    Just between us boys, let me be honest with you. You should make a paradigm shift and look to me as your trusted advisor.

    Seriously, thanks for the laugh. I’ll be watching to see how often I hear these comments. Have a great summer. Go Phillys.


  3. No, Larisa, I agree 110%!!

    Another variation on “Let me be honest” is “Opening our kimono”
    And if you are going to say ‘Win-Win”, please put in the effort to understand how I win also.

  4. Todd,

    Here’s one that makes me walk (or run) away: “Trust me.”

    What an annoying, pointless comment. If I know someone well enough to trust him, he won’t ask for (or demand) trust. If I don’t know him well enough, saying this won’t help—in fact, it likely will do just the opposite.

    Your blog is always a thoughtful read, Todd. Keep up the good writing.

  5. Noelle Lambert

    I love this newsletter. Here are some that I hear at work:

    “This is going to be a game changer”

    “Right church wrong pew”

    “Its truly a Win Win”

    “It’s a done deal”

    “It’s plug and play”

    Thank you!


  6. Just had to acknowledge you on the sales clichés as I can’t stand them also. The “let me be honest” really is horrible and has to go.

    Not so much a sales cliché but “at the end of the day” really is getting out of hand because it’s just being used by everybody and it’s so awful! I almost want to vomit when I hear it! Somehow , it’s gained “traction” (another stinker) lately and I just can’t take it anymore. For some reason people think it’s cute or something but it’s just so overused—must be banished from the cliché universe!

    My opinion for worst all time cliché in the English language is…”Best thing since sliced bread”!


  7. Hey there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  8. Excellent blog Todd! My all-star favorite is “We’d like to Partner with your organization.” When that cliche comes out I want to hide under the table. Sales people need to understand the word “Partner.” It is so over-used, it’s pathetic! Thanks for the laughs and bringing out what we should “Never” say as sales professionals.

  9. “I think outside the box to solve your problem/issue/etc.” So much thinking has been done outside the box, why don’t we just throw the box away already.

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