11 Words You Should Never Use in Sales or Marketing

11 Words You Should Never Use
pretty teenage girl wearing...
pretty teenage girl wearing...

By Steve Tobak, visit Inc.

Samples are helpful. Demos are often effective. But what is the primary tool used to convince potential customers to buy?


Whether spoken or written, words make sales happen.

Or not.

Too many salespeople (and marketers and advertisers) use the same words to describe their products and services. Pretend I'm a potential customer or client.

Here's how I react when you use the following words:

"Customer focused."

Talk about redundant; should you be anything but customer focused?

If your goal is to imply that other providers are not customer focused, tell me how: Faster response time, greater availability, customized processes or systems... tell me in concrete terms how you will meet my specific needs. (If you don't know my needs and therefore can't address them, shame on you.)

"Best in class."

There are two problems with that phrase: Who defined your "class," and who determined you were the "best" in it?

My guess is you did.

Still, maybe you really are that awesome. So prove it. Describe your accomplishments, awards, results, etc.

As a customer I don't need best in class, I need best for me--so tell me, in objective terms, how you can provide the best value for my needs.

"Low-hanging fruit."

You say, "We'll start with the low-hanging fruit." I hear, "We'll start with really easy stuff you are too stupid to recognize or too lazy to do yourself."

No one wants to hear they have low-hanging fruit. Just describe, in cost/benefit terms, how you prioritized your list of projects or activities.

"Exceed expectations."

That's admirable goal, and one every business should aspire to, but exceeding expectations is an internal goal. Tell me you will exceed expectations and exceeded expectations instantly becomes my expectation. (I know that's kinda Zen.)

Tell me what you will do, every time. If you consistently pull that off, I'll be delighted.

Always let the customer judge whether you go above and beyond.


The ever-increasing pace of commoditization means few products or services have no like or equal for long. If I'm considering hiring your firm or buying your products, "unique" (like "exclusive") sounds good but describes nothing.

Instead tell me, in concrete terms, how you are better.

"Value added."

This term is often used to imply I'll get something for no or very little incremental cost. That means what I will receive isn't value added--it's part of the overall deal.

So tell me the deal, explain all the options and add-ons, and help me figure out how I can take full advantage of what you provide.


Margaret Thatcher once said, "Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren't." Show your expertise instead.

"Social media expert" often reads as "We have Twitter and Facebook accounts and even know how to use them!

"Implemented social media campaigns for ACME that generated..." lets potential customers evaluate your level of expertise and your suitability for their needs.


Experience is only a partial indicator of expertise. If you're a contractor you may have built 100 homes... but that doesn't mean you did a good job.

Any reference to experience should immediately quantify that experience.

"Exceptional ROI."

We all seek a return on investments and we all love a great ROI. But without access to my numbers you can't accurately calculate my ROI. Therefore your estimates are either theoretical or based on another customer's results. Either way, I know your estimates are incredibly optimistic and that my results will definitely vary.

"Provides an exceptional ROI" reads as "...you're a terrible businessperson if you don't do this."

Show the costs, don't hide anything, and trust me to calculate my own ROI. If I'm not smart enough to do so, I probably don't have purchase authority anyway.


Long-term business relationships are great, but we will never be partners because while your hand will reach into my pocket, my hand will never reach into yours.

Still, maybe one day I will see you as a quasi-partner... but that's something I will decide on my own based on your performance, not on your marketing.


I love a turn-key solution as much as the next guy, but few solutions truly are.

No matter how comprehensive the offering I always wind up participating more than I was led to expect, so when I hear "turn key" I'm naturally skeptical... that is, unless you thoroughly break down what you will provide and what my participation will be, both during implementation and after.

Turn-key is in the eye of the beholder.

The customer is always the beholder.

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