Persuasive Words and Phrases: the Good, the Bad, and the Silent

The right words have the power to overcome most of the objections faced by every salesperson, and the best salespeople know the words that sell.

They also know which words work against them… and which moments call for no words at all.

What you do and say during sales conversations is the most decisive separator between mega-successful salespeople and average salespeople,” says Gong CEO Amit Bendov. “Top salespeople say and do very different things than their peers.”

Sales reps can significantly increase their close rates by avoiding the sales phrases that tend to kill a deal — and simply replacing them with “high-impact” vocabulary… or listening instead of talk.

Read on to see exactly how to use the right words, which wrong words to avoid, and when to use your ears instead of your mouth!

Persuasive Words for Salespeople to Use

At the most basic level, words should create a connection with the listener. For this, strong, emotional language is best.

As a salesperson, you can forge a connection with prospects if you rely on 3 types of persuasive words and phrases:

  • Words that show empathy
  • “Personal” words, such as You and I
  • Words that spark the imagination

Let me explain…

Sales phrases that show empathy

Connection begins when you communicate empathy. Every effective sales dialogue acknowledges the challenges your prospect faces.

To this end, choose empathetic words like “understand” and “appreciate” into your conversation can build a strong foundation for your sales effort.

  • “I understand how difficult your job must be.”
  • “I appreciate how hard it is for you to meet that goal.”
  • “I’m sorry you are going through this. That must be tough.”

These words put your prospect at ease: You are really listening, and you’re mindful enough to put yourself in their shoes (and, bonus, you’re NOT talking about your product!).

Show an authentic desire to help, and your prospect will be more receptive to what you have to say next.

Phrases that show agreement and common ground

In his classic book Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg writes that many people tend to make statements about how the world is, rather than how we perceive it. When we do this, we create the possibility of conflict.

Avoid telling the prospect how it is. You’re inviting them to disagree and create conflict. Instead, if you offer a vision of how you perceive the world to be, you’re giving them space to see and be inspired by your view of the world, even if theirs is different.

  • “We believe in a world where…”
  • “Our goal is to…”

“You” and “I”: Words that build relationships

Having established empathy and rapport, use language that will continue to build their trust in you as an advisor – with words that are personal and demonstrate honesty.

Research shows that people who tell the truth tend to use the first person singular – statements beginning with “I” – more frequently; this demonstrates accountability. (People who aren’t truthful often respond to a question with another question!)

But don’t confuse “I” statements with talking about yourself and your product! Sharing a small bit of personal information helps build trust, but keep the conversation centered on the other person:

  • “I understand. I’ve been there!”
  • “I struggled with that, too. Here’s where I finally landed…”

Of course, if we’re talking about “I” – we’re also talking about “you.”

Sales outreach should always be personalized and focused on “you” – the buyer. Build on this connection by using the person’s name. Top salespeople do this more than four times per hour and it correlates with a close ratio that’s higher by 14%.

Words that spark imagination

Use the word “imagine” and inspire your prospect to think about the success they could have if they use your product. This reminds them why they agreed to talk to you in the first place, and propels the conversation forward.

Kathryn Aragon calls the word imagine a “trigger for the buying response.” By asking your prospect to imagine something, she says, you prompt prospects to tap into their deepest desires and actually see themselves using your product to achieve those outcomes.

That makes your pitch personal. It also makes your product “a necessary step in achieving those benefits.”

  • “Imagine sending an email campaign and getting a bounce rate of less than 4%.”
  • “Imagine how motivated your team would be if you could get this tool for them.”

Imagination has always been a great way to introduce prospects to the idea of purchasing your product. Elmer Wheeler pointed it out in 1920: Don’t sell the steak — sell the sizzle!

Persuasive words in rhetoric

The ancient Greeks knew how to write compelling sales emails. Or they would have done, if they had sales, and emails. Because they were the masters of rhetoric – a system of classifying all the ways to make your writing more persuasive.

There are hundreds of them, but almost all of them come down to variations on one of four ideas – rhythm, repetition, comparison and contrast.

You don’t need to have studied classical rhetoric to excel in sales. But if you’re struggling for inspiration, it might be fun to take a look at this list of rhetorical devices, from antistrophe to zeugma.

Words and Phrases to Avoid in Sales

Gong has analyzed more than 500,000 sales conversations using artificial intelligence to pinpoint the words that lower your chances of success during a sales call. These are some of the worst offenders:

  • Billion – Large numbers like “billion” are difficult for people to comprehend, and end up sounding vague instead of impressive.
  • Discount – The word “discount” runs the risk of cheapening the perceived value of your product or service.
  • Contract – Using “contract” in sales dialogue lowers close rates by as much as 7%. It’s better to use a more neutral word, such as “agreement.”
  • Absolutely and Perfect – When “absolutely” and “perfect” are used four times or more in a conversation, your chances of progressing a sale fall 16%. They are so certain that they undermine your credibility.
  • Implement – Using the words “implement” or “implementation” makes the process of starting with your product or service sound complicated. “Onboard” or “getting started” are better substitutes.

According to Gong, another sales word to avoid is your own company’s name: Bringing it up more than four times during a sales meeting reduces close rates by 14%.

Adjectives and adverbs

Copy that fails is full of adjectives. Abraham Lincoln rarely used them. Ernest Hemingway despised them. Winston Churchill barely touched them.

Instead, use verbs.

This great piece contains a list of 108 good ones, although a couple may be a little dramatic for the average cold prospecting email.

Anything complex at all

Sales people understand the value of simplicity. We don’t like complexity in our documents. But too much of the stuff that circulates in the corporate world is hard to understand.

The easier something is to understand, the more likely someone will agree with it. We all like easy communication.

Try running your copy through the Hemingway app. If you score higher than a seven, don’t send it. (You can copy and paste this article in, if you want. See how we do!)

No Words: When Listening Is Persuasive

Being quiet seems counterintuitive for many salespeople. But top-producing B2B sales professionals talk just 43% of the time!

Selling, one of the most advanced forms of communication, is an extremely complex process that depends on active listening — ironically, considered to be one of the least-developed skills among salespeople.

Active listening means encouraging your client to do the talking:

  • Waiting 3–4 seconds before responding to a prospect to see if they are done talking
  • Never interrupting them while they’re speaking
  • Listening with an open mind, without judgment or even a sales agenda
  • Rephrasing/repeating their comments to make sure you’ve understood what they’re saying

These tactics will remove barriers to connecting with a prospective client, and help forge a stronger, deeper relationship that can open up new selling opportunities by illuminating issues, questions, or concerns you may have otherwise missed.

So, the next time you’re heading into a sales meeting, choose your words wisely, and be prepared to know when to just choose silence.

Steve Waters is DiscoverOrg + ZoomInfo’s Senior Director of Commercial Sales. A long-time DiscoverOrg veteran, he has 10+ years in sales and an MBA from Northwest Nazarene University. When he’s not rocking the phones, Steve rocks on the drums in several bands in the Portland area.

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