Selecting the right phrase can mean the difference between coming across as helpful or obnoxious--even if you're basically saying the same thing. The following phrases are those sales staff should avoid when selling products or services via the telephone:

  • "How are you this evening?" If answered honestly, the person will probably say "Fine, until you called." Besides, what will you say if the individual says, "Not well"? Make it easy on yourself and the person on the other end of the line: Don't ask. Of course you should be polite, but get to the point. The quicker you spark the individual's interest by stating what you have to offer, the quicker you go from an annoyance to a call the person is glad to have received.
  • "Is this a good time to talk?" The answer you're most likely to get, of course, is no. This question also leaves the person on the other end in the dark about you and your business. Instead, tell the prospect what you do and quickly explain the benefits to the individual, or his or her business. As you're doing so, stay away from phrases such as "Would you like to save some money?" Not only is the answer obvious, but the question will immediately make the person suspicious. It's a cheesy come-on and the sales equivalent of approaching someone at a bar and saying "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
  • "Hold on." Should you need the person to hold, avoid using this phrase. It's too informal, it isn't professional, and it assumes a personal relationship you probably don't have with the individual you called. Instead, say, "I can get that information for you."
  • "I can't." Don't tell a prospect or customer something can't be done. Instead, offer them as series of options. Tell them what you can do for them.
  • "But . . ." As with "can't," it's negative and can make the prospect or client defensive. Try substituting "and" for "but" to smooth the statement.
  • "I don't know." Say "I can find out." It's more positive and proactive, and makes you sound like you care.
  • "The only thing we can do . . ." This statement is not only confrontational, but it will likely illicit a defensive reaction. You're not giving the client any options. In this situation, say, "The best option is..." This makes the person feel like he or she has a choice and give the individual a sense of power. When using this phrase, you're honestly advising the person, rather than saying "Here's your choice, take it or leave it."