(reading time: 3 minutes)

You’ve probably seen sales scripts before. These scripts show you exactly what to say to get a prospect’s business. But oftentimes what you should never say to a customer is just as important as what you should. There are countless phrases, words, and expressions salespeople use that are either ineffective or can completely turn the customer off.

Of course, different industries will have their own rules of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But saying any of the following ten things is much more likely to hurt you than help you when it comes to sales.

(But what can help you is Spiro’s sales automation CRM)

1. “Do you have 90 seconds?”

You might be trying to make it clear that you’re not going to take much of the prospect’s time, but whenever you say this, you’re starting off the conversation with a lie, because there’s no way you’re going to have a discussion that lasts less than a minute and a half. Don’t make a promise you’re going to break.

2. “I really need this deal.”

Not only does telling the customer about your personal plight make you look desperate, it’s also wildly ineffective. Sales is about solving the customer’s problems, not your own. Ask yourself why the customer should care about what you are offering, and if your personal struggles are all you came up with, go back to the drawing board.

3. “I’m going to be honest with you.”

Far too many salespeople say this, either out of habit or because they think it’s an effective selling technique. Not only is saying this a cliche, it’s also going to have the opposite effect from the one you’re intending. If you’re going to be honest, does that mean you haven’t been honest up until now?

4. “Tom, let’s take a look at this one. Does that sound good, Tom?”

Nothing is more irritating than a salesperson who keeps repeating your name over and over again in a misguided attempt to build rapport. It’s a patronizing and unpleasant way to work towards the sale, and turns many people off. It’s good that you took the time to remember the customer’s name, but know when to stop.

5. “I usually don’t do this for anyone but..”

This is one of the most transparently sales-ey ways to try to close a deal. Even if it’s true, there are much more professional ways to phrase it. The problem with statements like these is that everyone can see right through them. They don’t work on anyone, except maybe someone who’s spent the last 40 years in a coma.

6. “What keeps you up at night?”

This is a common B2B question, but it shouldn’t be. Asking someone what keeps them up at night is a stupid way to find out what problems the person or company wants to address. If someone asked you what keeps you up at night, you’d probably call them a creep and tell them it’s none of their business, right?

7. “How could you not want this deal?”

If you actually say this to a prospect then you deserve to lose the deal. This comes from a place of insecurity and desperation. The honest answer to this question is “Because you didn’t do a good enough job of selling it to me.”

8. “I’m just touching base.”

This is a very common sales phrase that needs to be retired immediately. Touching base obscures what you’re really asking and is very transparent. Call or email for a decision, or an update, but don’t call to touch base. It also makes it sound like you’re doing it because it’s an obligation.

9. “My competitor’s products are awful.”

Badmouthing your competition is a sure way to turn most customers off. Of course, you want to be careful praising them too much as well. Usually some faint praise and then pointing out the value difference between your product and theirs is the best way to go, but never insult the people you’re competing against to the prospect.

10. “Would you like some time to think about it?”

The problem with saying something like this is that you’re giving the prospect a way to quickly end the conversation. They might ask for time to think about it on their own, but if you offer it to them, you’re practically saying “Why don’t you get back to me whenever you feel like it.” Let them ask you for some time to think about it so that you can ask them what their concerns are.

What Should You Try?

If you’re not using some sort of new technology to help prospect more effectively, then you’re selling yourself short. There are lots of great, cost-effective solutions out there that can help your team (and you) hit your numbers. Spiro, for instance, uses artificial-intelligence to recommend which of your prospects you should call next so that you will have the highest likelihood of turning it into a closed deal.

Try to avoid saying one of these ten sales turn-offs, and try to incorporate new technology into your sales routines.

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About the Author Ken Kupchik

Ken Kupchik is the creator of Sales Humor and the author of the funniest sales book ever written, The Sales Survival Handbook, which you can order on Amazon.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


  • Absolutely love Sales Humor, thanks for it! Also, thanks for the tips here. I say Just touching base all the time haha, not anymore.

  • Ken Kupchik says:

    Thanks Brennan, very glad that you enjoy Sales Humor and the articles. Happy selling!

  • Steve Messa says:

    I’m a little guilty of the “would you like some time to think about it” misstep, but I’ve been trying to combat this by setting specific next steps at the end of the call, even if they don’t move the contact to the next stage of my funnel. Having a few things like that can really ease the burden of navigating a ‘hard to get’ lead. Thanks for the writeup!

  • Martyn Jones says:

    “If someone asked you what keeps you up at night, you’d probably call them a creep and tell them it’s none of their business, right?”

    Nothing keeps me awake at night.

  • Jeff says:

    Love the “To be honest with you…” point. It’s how I found this page – googling “never say ‘to be honest with you'” – because my office neighbor says it a lot, and I always think: “So are you switching gears to honesty now?”

  • Larry Earp says:

    I once greeted a prospect from the podium room and commented on the beautiful tan the gentleman had saying something to the tune of where did you get the great tan, he responded that he was Mexican and lived in La Habra.He seemed a little pissed went on the tour in Indio, anyway won him over and got a front to back sale. Any faupaux can be overcome, with skill.

  • Ed vaks says:

    “When do you recommend I follow up?” Is better way to say that…

  • Joe Hames says:

    I think there are versions of “to be honest with you” that have a place in the right context. An example being that I might not necessarily recommend the most expensive product on the menu, so I might say “My honest opinion is that our Option B meets all of your needs, and you might not get value from the extra features of Option A”

  • CT says:

    So Joe, all of your previous opinions aren’t honest? It implies the same thing, like your other opinions aren’t honest/truthful. Just drop it from your vocab, because as a sales rep you should ALWAYS be honest, and there should be no reason you have to state when you’re being honest. Think about it.

  • These are really funny, but hey, they clearly make a point! And let’s face it, some salespeople still do a thing or two of these. But what I particularly don’t like is #2 – “I really need this deal…”. It’s just utter desperate and selfish.

  • How about, “Oh, I just sold the last one.” That one does no one any good and just frustrates the costumer.

  • Mike says:

    coffee keeps me up at night…

  • Mike says:

    “I was in the neighborhood…”
    Listen, Skippy… Just because you can’t plan your day doesn’t mean I was hoping you would appear at my shop. Let me put payroll on hold so I can listen to you attempt to sell me something I already have that works fine.

  • Steve Smith says:

    I would add “How’s that working out for you?” In my world that only closes a door, not open it.

  • John says:

    sex keeps me up at night!

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