Every year Lake Superior State University (LSSU) releases a list of words that they would like to have banished from everyday usage. This year LSSU published the 40th annual list. Unfortunately, this year that list didn’t include some of the horribly over-used and misused words in sales. Here is our list of sales words and phrases that we would like to see stopped from everyday use in 2015. They are the words and phrases that creep into a sales call, presentation or just a routine meeting between sales professionals and their buyers.

How each word or phrase got started is anyone’s guess. When these terms and phrases come up we are expected to nod our heads and believe that the orator has just said something that is profound, thought-provoking, new and insightful.

Stop Using These Sales Words & Phrases in 2015!

  1. Challenge Questions: Why? This sound like a duel. Me against you. It also reminds us of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Ban this word for three reasons. First, who likes to be challenged? Second, there are two types of questions: open and closed. There are many ways to phrase questions: commitment, situation, problem etc. Third, it’s not new. Savvy sellers have been asking good questions that get buying influences to think in different ways for years. Rather than challenge, why not provide perspective such as knowledge or information that is insightful and that makes the individual reflect and realize that they are talking to a professional.
  2. Disruptive Technology: This phrase is an attention grabber! It makes you pause and reflect and when you do you realize the phrase is vague. What makes the technology disruptive? Does it disrupt the status quo? Is it disruptive to the competition thus leaving them far behind? Does it disrupt workflow and is that a benefit? If you like this word then what disrupts, disruptive technology?
  3. Buyer’s Journey: This sounds like the buyer is going on a trip. Buyers don’t go on trips. Buying is a distinct process with a series of steps the buyer goes through from uninterested and unaware to the issuance of a purchase order. While the buying process is often shown as being linear it’s more often than not non-linear. Let’s call this what it is a “Buying Process”.
  4. Big Data: It’s not big data or little data; it’s just data that provides information to help people make better, more informed decisions. If we allow “big data” into our vocabulary then be prepared that the next new term will be “meaningful data”!
  5. State-of –the-Art: If it’s excellent or better than anything else then say it. Besides, who is the authority that says it’s “state-of-the-art.” Is it the manufacturer? The distributor? A third party firm? A research firm? A consultant? This term means different things to different people and it’s over-used. LSSU banned this phrase in 1983 but its still being used.
  6. Best in Class: In high school or college it’s the Valedictorian! He/she is best-in the class. We’d like to propose that whichever authoritative body defines state-of-the-art states that a product is “best-in-class”. What do we mean by “class.” Industry? Geography? Region? Zip code? Etc.?
  7. The Sales Funnel is Dead: Nope, the sales funnel is alive and well. The left side depicts the sales steps or selling process steps and the right side depicts the buying process. It’s simple, it’s accurate, and it’s Savvy sellers know that not all buyers buy in a linear fashion and they understand that different buyers are at different locations in a buying process. Only those that want to sell a book with a catchy title believe the funnel is dead.
  8. The Bottom Line: In finance the bottom line is EBITA. Every company has one. There is nothing rhetorical about it. It either exists or it doesn’t. It’s either adequate or it’s not. It’s either health or unhealthy. When used in sales parlance it means different things to different people. Your bottom line isn’t necessarily ours. Get rid of this term in sales unless it’s used to mean EBITA. LSSU banned this phrase in 1979 and again in 1992.
  9. Cloud: Our data is in the cloud. Every time we fly through clouds we wonder if our data is getting destroyed or disrupted by the airplane or the weather. The word cloud makes it more mysterious than is necessary. Why not say a data storage center that enables software and services to function over the internet instead of a computer or network of PCs. Try and make it clear to everyone. A different metaphor is in order.
  10. New Normal: This is our favorite. What you believe or believed to be “normal” is no more! There is a “new normal” that you should embrace and I am about to explain it to you. The problem with this term is that for some people, “normal” is really “normal” and they don’t see the “new normal.” Besides, if you embrace the “new normal” what comes next? LSSU banned this phrase in 2012 and we think it should remain banned.

Parting Thoughts

OK! We feel much better. Next week we will get back to more serious blogs on Healthcare Business Acumen and Sales Insights. As always we welcome your thoughts and comments and invitations to connect on LinkedIn.

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