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7 Words You Should Never Use in Sales

Steer clear! Some words go straight to your prospect’s subconscious mind and deliver negative associations.

In the 1970s, comedian George Carlin joked about the seven words you can never say on television. Did you know there are also seven words you should never say to a prospect? It’s the “lizard brain” at work. These words go straight to your prospect’s subconscious mind and deliver negative associations, ramifications, and consequences that result in lost sales. So keep this advice in mind when you see your next prospect:

1. Don’t say “buy.” Everyone likes to own, but nobody likes to buy. Buying means you are making a decision. You are spending money and making a commitment. The lizard brain doesn’t like to buy; it likes to own.

Instead, have your customer “invest.” Investments provide returns, they generate profits and earn money. We all like money and profits, right? So, don’t say, “When you buy,” say, “When you invest in our solution.”

2. Don’t say “sell.” Similarly, the word sell has many negative associations. The selling process is unpleasant for many people and they do it with great reluctance. The lizard brain perceives that the seller “wins,” which means they “lose.”

Rather, speak from the customer’s point of view and refer to the benefits the company will receive. Don’t say, “When I sell you this solution,” say, “When you own this solution” or “When you deploy this technology.”

3. Don’t say “decision.” Everyone likes to choose, but no one likes to decide. Decisions may be incorrect and have bad consequences. The lizard brain is afraid of making a poor decision.

So have your customer “choose” instead. It’s easy to choose between two alternatives. Vanilla or chocolate? Both good choices! So don’t say, “When you make a decision,” say, “When you choose our solution.”

4. Avoid making a “deal.” Snake oil peddlers make deals. Infomercials offer deals. Do you want to be associated with those pitches?

Rather, have your customer “approve an agreement.” Agreement means you both approve and are mutually happy, which, of course, you are. Right?

5. Don’t say “contract.” A contract is a legal commitment. The lizard brain hears contract and thinks of lawyers and fine print. Always negative! Their response: “I’d better think about it and run it by legal!”

Talk about “paperwork” instead. Paperwork is a necessary evil, so let’s get it out of the way so you can start getting returns from your investment!

6. Don’t “close” a sale. Closing is final; you can’t go back. The lizard brain hears “close” and thinks, “Wait, I better ponder this before making a final decision!”

It would be better to “open the account.” Opening is much easier and inviting. There’s always time to adjust and refine the account once it’s opened.

7. Don’t use the word “sign.” Signing a contract is making a legal commitment, in ink. The lizard brain hears sign and thinks again of lawyers and fine print—deal killers!

Use milder words such as “approve” or “OK” instead. “Let’s OK the paperwork so we can get started!”

In sales, every word matters. Use yours carefully and avoid provoking the lizard brain!

MIKE SCHMIDTMANN is a business consultant who works with IT solution providers on sales recruiting, new business development, and profit growth. He also leads Trans4mers LLC, a peer group for IT sales executives. Reach him at


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