Written by David B. Goates
We have learned some things about telephone calls in our history as a telemarketing company. We work with decision makers in the B2B space exclusively, and there are certain phrases guaranteed to stop a conversation dead in its tracks. If you open a communication exit door for people, they will inevitably find the way out.
There are some key phrases you need to master to keep the dialogue going. It’s another reason you want to make certain your scripting is always up on the screen when you’re speaking. It helps you avoid the speech traps we all fall into without thinking unless we are reminded.
What you want to avoid at all costs is sounding like a typical salesperson on the phone. Here are eight examples of phrases you need to train your sales team never to use:
1. Never say: “Is now a good time?” OR “Do you have a minute?”
Reason: It’s so stale and trite everyone has heard it before, and it gives an immediate “out” to the person. We had a caller who did it routinely, and he kept getting shut down. It’s so old school because it’s polite, but in today’s world it’s ineffective when people expect a more direct approach. Your cold call is unscheduled, so if you lead with this sentence, the answer will invariably be “NO!” You’ve got to add immediate value to avoid that answer.
Try this instead: “I am glad I was able to reach you!” OR “It’s good to speak with you!” OR “I hope all is well!”
2. Never say: “I am sorry to bother you…”
Reason: If you start your call with an apology, where do you go after that? It’s a surefire invitation for the person to use the exit door because you’re not in control, you’re showing absolutely no conviction, and you come off as insincere. If you’re sorry, then why did you call me in the first place?
Try this instead: “I appreciate you taking my call,” OR “Thanks for taking my call.”
3. Never say: “How are you?” OR “How’s it going?” OR “How are you doing?”
Reason: I remember a radio talk show host saying at the top of his broadcast, “I’m fine today, so don’t anyone out there ask that question again today!” If they did, he would hang up. This is an automatic phrase the typical salesperson uses with absolutely no personal connection to the individual. It’s so hollow, and you need to separate yourself quickly from the pack if that call is going to go somewhere. Get to the point immediately, or don’t call at all!
Try this instead: “I know you’re busy, I’ll be brief,” OR “Last time we spoke you were crazy busy, looks like you’ve got a little breathing room today,” OR “How did you do with the trade show presentation you were telling me about?”
4. Never say: “I was just checking in with you.”
Reason: The word “just” is an automatic signal that what comes next is NOT important. NEVER use that word if you want someone to pay attention to what you’re saying!
Try this instead: “I am calling to make sure you have what you need. . .” OR “My senior director has a couple of questions about. . .”
5. Never say: “I was just wondering. . .”
Reason: This is double jeopardy — there’s that “just” word again, and “wondering” is almost as oblique and vague as a directionless word can be. You’re demonstrating no clear purpose or conviction, like you’re fishing in an ocean with a sinker.
Try this instead: “I have a question for you,” OR “Your company meets the profile of companies we work with.”
6. Never say: “Keep us in mind.”
Reason: Great salespeople never aspire to be an order TAKER, they would rather be an order MAKER. Saying “Keep us in mind” is pathetically weak, like it’s the last thing you say when the sale is lost. Take control of the conversation, don’t be a limp conversational noodle.
Try this instead: “When can we get back together again to discuss your thoughts?” OR “When will you be reviewing your alternatives next?” OR “I’ll circle back in a few months to see what’s changed.”
7. Never say: “Buddy, Bud, Bro, Honey, Darlin’, Dearie, Dude, Sweetie, Sugar, etc.”
Reason: I’m not singling out anyone here, but there are certain parts of the country where all these alternative names are perfectly acceptable. However, on the phone they are (or should always be) taboo. It is ALWAYS good protocol in any situation to use a person’s name, particularly when it’s the first contact. NEVER make the assumption that you can call a potential customer by an alternate title. You appear to be overreaching to establish a personal relationship with a stranger and it’s not as acceptable as you think if you use these phrases habitually.
Try this instead: ALWAYS use the person’s NAME! If you don’t know it, don’t be bashful – ASK!!!
8. Never say: “Hey, Bob, I know you’re busy, Bob, but, Bob, let’s chat for a minute, Bob.”
Reason: Do NOT overuse a person’s name on a call. Their name is their favorite sound, but when you overuse it you come off as faking it and wearing out your welcome. Don’t sound fake and insincere. Remember, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out!”
Try this instead: Use their name early in the conversation to establish that you know who they are, and then pepper it sparingly and use it when you close the call.
Watch your language! If you find yourself using any of these statements, you should stop immediately.
Whether you are working inbound sales calls, outbound sales, business development, or on the floor, be aware of your word choices. These non-starter phrases will doom your hopes of winning new customers.
REMEMBER: Words matter. Employing correct language can make all the difference in sales-call success.