The pen is mightier than the sword. Which is good, because you probably don’t want to threaten prospects into buying at sword-point.
As the primary “weapons” to convert prospects into customers, words are incredibly important to salespeople. How sales reps deliver their messages and converse with contacts can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a conversation. Using the wrong phrase might cast a negative shadow on the proposal, while tweaking just a few words in the pitch might induce a client to buy immediately. The underlying message is certainly critical, but the words used to deliver it are equally so.
That’s why all salespeople should become word nerds. Here’s a list of 17 power words that can help you close more deals and earn your prospects’ trust in the process.
Power Words for Sales
Selling is about your prospects — not your company. A simple way to make that clear is by using the word “you” as much as possible. Think back to your childhood. Did your parents ever tell you it was impolite to talk about yourself?
Apply that rule here. Every time you might be tempted to phrase a sentence from the perspective of your company, find a way to rework it to make your prospect the subject.
“Customers don’t care about features and benefits,” Colleen Francis, owner of Engage Selling Solutions, writes in her book Nonstop Sales Boom. “They only care about value and achieving their objectives.”
Again, it’s about them, not you. Skip over all the amazing features your product or service contains and instead make it clear how your offering will create value for your prospect’s business.
This is a clever replacement for “but” when dealing with criticisms or objections. The word “but” signals to the prospect that you are about to utter a statement that runs counter to what they’d like to hear.
“And” by its very nature is inclusive — you seem to agree even when you’re disagreeing. Consider these two examples from Sales Coach Seamus Brown:
“I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, but let me tell you why our system costs $100,000.”
“I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, and let me tell you why our system costs $100,000.”
Brown points out that the second sentence acknowledges the prospect’s budget, while the first steamrolls over the problem and makes the buyer feel ignored. What a difference one word can make!
Many sales experts recommend using “do” instead of “try.” For instance, instead of “I’d like to try … ” say, “What I’ll do is … “ This makes you seem competent and trustworthy — boosting your prospect’s confidence in you and your offering in the process.
If you present a single proposal to a client, you only give them the option of accepting or rejecting. But if you present them with two or three different variations on your proposal, suddenly you’ve doubled or tripled your odds of receiving some form of a “yes.” So in negotiations don’t just ask if they’d like to sign the contract, ask if version A or version B or version C is preferable.
6. Should we … ?
Most people balk at being told what to do — especially when the person dishing out orders is not a member of their organization. With this in mind, the phrase “you should” can come off as arrogant and presumptive.
Reformulating suggestions as questions helps the prospect keep an open mind and diminishes the potential for the conversation to take a nasty turn.
According to The Challenger Sale, “Widespread support for a supplier across their team is the number one thing senior decision makers look for in making a purchase decision.”
So words that express agreement among stakeholders — such as “support” or “consensus” — could have a significant impact on your primary buyer’s mindset. If you have backing from the entire team, play it up as much as possible. If you don’t, stress how you’re going to attain it.
Stories stick in people’s mind more readily than straight sales messaging. So the best reps don’t only use stories in their speech, they also make sure prospects see themselves as the protagonists.
The word imagine can be helpful in this aim. Suddenly, the prospect isn’t just hearing about a better future enabled through a new product or service — they’re actually picturing themselves living it.
That makes for a shared vision — not one that exists exclusively in the salesperson’s mind.
9. See; Show; Hear; Tackle
Okay, so this isn’t one word, but they’re all part of one family. Each of these words evokes a sense, and sensory language grabs people’s attention. Think about how the words you use relate to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic triggers.
10. Their Name
Just like you, using your prospect’s name makes them feel like they’re the focus of your attention, and your presentation is customized just for them. People also naturally pay attention better when their name is sprinkled throughout a speech.
Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard University, conducted a study where she tested the impact of phrasing on people’s willingness to let someone cut them in line. Here are the variations she used:
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
While only 70% agreed to let her cut in line when she used the first question, upwards of 90% let her skip when she used either the second and third phrasings.
The takeaway? When asking people to do something, always include a reason. Don’t just request that your prospect introduce you to another stakeholder or fill out a survey — explain why you’d like them to take these actions.
Problems are bound to crop up in the sales process, but that doesn’t mean you should acknowledge them as such. The word “problem” has a negative connotation, and can make the prospect feel as if the process is difficult and unpleasant.
With this in mind, replace it with more positive words. Instead of saying “no problem,” for example, say, “it’s my pleasure.” “I understand the problem” can become “I see an opportunity to make this run more smoothly.”
Prospects want solutions with some degree of certainty behind them. They want to know that the products or services they will deliver. That’s why describing the definitive, impressive results you can promise potential customers can carry tremendous weight when trying to woo them.
Talking up an offering’s prestige is an effective means of capturing a prospect’s interest, retaining it, and ultimately translating it into hard sales. People respond to the concepts of high-esteem and quality.
If you can convey those factors tastefully and convincingly with words like premium, you’ll be able to string together a compelling pitch that can have high returns.
Sales is, in large part, the art of putting prospects at ease. That’s why words like risk-free are valuable. You need to do what you can to allay stress and skepticism.
You can get a lot of mileage out of this term with prospects — whether it be by describing a free, no-strings-attached trial or assuring them that you have full confidence in your offering.
Being a part of the in-crowd is an attractive prospect in any context — and sales is no exception. Luxury and prestige are powerful motivators, and this term is tailored to play on both.
Creating the impression that your product or service is special and only available to a select few can spur some serious interest and action from potential buyers.
In a similar vein as risk-free the term safe can be leveraged to put prospects at ease. It reinforces the notion that your product or service is proven, effective, and decisively able to deliver.
Safe tells prospects they’re in good hands — that you can promise they’ll see the results they’re looking for. People want solutions they can believe in. Safe assures them they can by alluding to the others already do.
Now, this list of power words for sales isn’t exhaustive, but that doesn’t make it any less useful or significant. Having a grasp on these words and how to use them in your sales efforts can pay off in spades. Language is crucial in sales, so it serves you to bolster your vocabulary with words that will elicit the right responses from prospects.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.