Sales Jargon to Avoid Using

Some words and phrases are truly an impediment to understanding. They sound impressive and don't actually mean anything – or worse, the person using them doesn't know what they mean. Here are some jargon words and phrases that are likely to appear in sales presentations, and why you shouldn't use them yourself.

"Customer-Focused"

Salespeople looking at tablet
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This phrase is meaningless because every company is ultimately customer-focused... that's where the money is. Most salespeople use this phrase to mean that provide good service to customers, but that's not something you can just tell a prospect. Instead, share customer testimonials or stories from your own experience that prove your point.

"Turnkey" or "Turn Key"

Here's a phrase that salespeople often misuse. Turnkey refers to a product or service that requires no set-up and is ready to use right out of the box. Unfortunately, few products can live up to the expectation that prospects feel on hearing this phrase. A better choice would be something like “Our product requires just 15 minutes to set up.” The more specific you can be about any claim, the more meaningful it is (and the more likely your listener is to believe you).

"Drinking the Kool-Aid"

A reference to the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, this phrase refers to blindly following someone or something. Of course, it's also tactless and offensive to turn a horrific event into a cute business saying. In fact, this phrase was the winner of Forbes Magazine's 2012 Jargon Madness tournament, which is reason enough right there to avoid using it in a business conversation.

"Value-Added"

This term means that you're offering some extra bonus product or feature to a prospect, often something that you'd usually charge extra for but will now throw in for free. Unfortunately, it's become so overused that in sales situations, it's virtually meaningless. You can make a bigger impact by saying, “Our maintenance plan normally costs $200 per year but you'll get it free with this widget.”

"Think Outside the Box"

Derived from a psychological test, it means to come up with an unconventional solution to a problem. At one time this was a useful phrase but it's become worn out by overuse. Just say “think creatively” and your listeners are more likely to take you seriously.

"Full-Service"

Another hyphenated phrase to avoid, since no company is truly full-service unless it washes windows and changes ​oil in addition to offering its main product or service. For everyone else, saying something that's obviously not true won't endear you to the prospect.

"We Give 110%"

Usually intended to mean that you'll go over and above the required level of effort. But since it's a meaningless phrase to start with and has been so commonly used by salespeople that it has an untrustworthy vibe, it's best avoided. If you want the prospect to see that you'll put in extra effort, share a story of how you've done so in the past.

"Best in Class"

This phrase means that your company or your product is the best one in your entire industry (if not the whole world). The only time you can safely use it is if you can back it up with something like a third-party review or a scientific study that proves you really are the best.

"Action Item"

A short-term business goal. For example, you could say, “My action item for the next meeting is to get the answer to your question about this product.” However, please don't ever say that. Instead, say “By our next meeting I'll have the answer to your question.”