8 Deadly Crutch Words and Phrases

8 deadly crutch words

Using ineffective and poor crutch words and phrases can damage your sales conversations. In the modern world, where sales is driven by science, our choice of vocabulary can emotionally connect or disconnect with our buyers brain and emotion in different ways.

"Um, basically, would you be interested in a free trial of our market leading product?" 

I feel ill.

Sometimes, using the wrong choice of words can make your prospects think and feel differently to both you and your company in the click of a finger. A slip of the tongue, can rapidly change the dynamics of a conversation and sales opportunity.

Here are eight examples of words/phrases which can have a negative impact on your sales conversations, along with suggested alternatives to use instead:


For too long now, sales-people have built a bad reputation with prospects or buyers about being untrustworthy, and only looking out for themselves.

Here's the ironic thing. Anytime a sales rep says the word ‘honestly’ in their sales conversations, it makes your prospects believe that anything they have previously said (or are about to say), was untrue. The more we try and over-compensate or justify what we are saying by being ‘honest’, the less credibility we have.

Honestly is a word you should be looking to drop from your sales vocabulary.

Rather than saying something like:

“Honestly, I think we can have you up and running by this time next week”

Try using alternatives like:

“From experience, we tend to get customers up and running within a week”


Whenever I hear sales-people label their company as ‘market-leading’ when I’m being sold to, I always cringe and scrunch my face up. Whether their company is the highest revenue generator, most established, or most well known in their space, that ultimately counts for very little in relation to my personal situation. If your product doesn’t match my specific needs or use case, I couldn’t care less that you made $100m in revenues last year. If the sales-rep doesn’t invest the time asking me questions about what my specific needs are, your product’s latest ‘awards’ count for the square root of nothing. It ain't gonna make me buy.

Ultimately, its every individual prospect you sell to, to decide how ‘market-leading’ your product is.

Rather than saying something like:

“People decide to work with us as we are the market leading product in the CRM space”

Try using alternatives like:

“One of the main drivers similar people in your position and organisation have decided to work with us is...”


Here’s a strong statement for you. Sales people who serve up discounts to get deals done in their sales conversations are weak. I’ve often used the phrase - ‘discount your price, and you discount your product’. What do I mean by that? Ever wonder why some retailers give HUGE discounts on televisions, but not on others? Its because they want to get rid of them. They are filling up the stockroom as nobody else wanted to buy them at their original price. In essence, they feel like the cheap option in all sense of the word. When sales people offer their prospects ‘discounts’, they instantly make their products less valuable.

Now this is not me saying we should NEVER give discounts. Some prospects and customers will always look for the best possible deal or price. But if you are going to give away something, always ask for something in return. Turn your ‘discounts’ into ‘trade-offs’.

Rather than saying something like:

“In order to make this an easy decision for you Mr Prospect, I can give you a 20% discount today”

Try using alternatives like:

“I’d be happy to look at the price Mr Prospect, but in return would you feel it’s fair to commit to giving us a testimonial after three months should you feel you’ve had a positive experience working with us?”

Show you how

I was on the receiving end of a sales demo a couple weeks back, and it was a painful experience. The sales rep had an incessant desire to want to keep ‘showing me how’.

‘Let me show you how you access the navigation’

‘Let me show you how to setup a new search term’

The whole thing felt like a training session. By ‘showing me’ everything, the sales person had committed the ultimate sales demo crime. Not making it about me and my situation, and not making it a conversation.

Rather than saying something like:

“Let me show you how our product managers different account levels and hierarchies step by step”

Try using alternatives like:

“You mentioned that managing different account levels was important for you. Would you like me to demonstrate how that looks in our product?”

Free Trial

The dreaded ‘F’ word.

Legend has it, this very author has written plenty about the pitfalls of dishing out free trials. Much like the word ‘discount’, free-trials scream out ‘de-value’. When people get things for free, they are far less inclined to use them. Without the skin in the game, prospects feel far less committed to adopting your product, and so the purpose of running a ‘trial’, instantly becomes diluted.

Now I get it, prospects ask to ‘try before we buy’ all the time. Having this conversation can almost be unavoidable. So how do we deal with it? Rather than free trials, try suggesting ‘pilots’ or ‘proof of concepts’. The same thing almost, but they sound different. They sound like something which will need time and attention, rather than a commodity which they can decide to either look at or ignore. Better still, encourage prospects to pay for these and explain the reasons why. Position them as paid evaluations to give them the confidence of investing more seriously longer term. You’ll be surprised how much success you will have with this approach.

Rather than saying something like:

“How about we get you started on a free-trial so you can try us out first?”

Try using alternatives like:

“What I would recommend is running an initial proof of concept. This is less of a financial commitment for you up front, but will enable us to prove value and give you the confidence of this being something you want to have in place longer term.”


Sales-people may feel that one of their company’s key differentiators is that they are the cheapest in the market, or at least a cheaper option to a competitor. Whilst this may be true, the word ‘cheap’ lets off a bad stink of ‘poor quality’ and can automatically resonate poorly with prospects. Potential customers generally speaking, are looking for the product which offers the most value based on their needs and desires. Its playing on ‘value’ which is absolutely keen here when sales people are talking about pricing.

Rather than saying something like:

“People tend to buy from us as we are the cheapest service”

Try using alternatives like:

“I would say that in our space, we tend to be the most cost effective for companies of your size”


The word contract just sounds heavy doesn’t it? Like something you are locked in to, with no escape. Like a life sentence. It feels like something which is all in favour of the seller and not the buyer. The word ‘contract’ just feels really serious.

Buying decisions should be seen as fair and agreeable. A happy seller and a happy buyer, in agreement that this is a deal which works for both parties.

Rather than saying something like:

“I’ll draw up the specifics of the contract and send this to you for review”

Try using alternatives like:

“Let me put together an agreement based on what we have agreed upon, and send this for you to check over”

You know

You know what phrase really sounds annoying after a while. You know, its when people say you know all the time. Because, you know, the more it gets spoken by a sales person in their sales conversations, you know it starts to get picked up by the prospect.You know.

OK - so I could have chosen many other filler terms here. We all have our own, we all use them, and we should all be doing our very best to say them less. The data shows that they don’t really damage our sales success. But they still can be annoying to hear.

Rather than saying something like:

“You know…..”

Try using alternatives like:


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