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Howard LitwakMar 14, 20235 min read

Sales & Customer Service Language: 13 Things NOT to Say

Excellent technical skills are necessary for any business. So are outstanding verbal skills, because they influence customer service, sales, team effectiveness, efficiency, and turnover.

If you or your team says the wrong thing or says something the wrong way, you risk losing customers, prospects, and employees. You jeopardize effective communication with everybody. Period.

It doesn't matter what type of industry or role you're in; you're also in the business of interacting with people. This requires developing and managing both new and ongoing relationships. You must have a good understanding of persuasion and influence.

In other words, you need to know how to influence the outcomes you really want by using the power of your words. Great leaders, top performing sellers, and outstanding customer service professional have all mastered this.

Below, we have listed thirteen things to not say to your prospects or customers. We also take a look at why you shouldn't say them and what to say instead. With a few slight changes to your language, you will find yourself and your team being more influential and getting better results.


Improve your sales & customer service language with one word

First, here is one thing you should ALWAYS say: Yes! Find ways to answer questions with “Yes!” It leads to the perception of great service. “Yes!” tells people their expectations will be met. Everyone, including yourself, wants to hear "Yes!" (99% of the time, at least.)


speech bubble with crumpled paper what not to say in sales or customer service

13 things NOT to say in sales or customer service

Here's our list of what not to say, and what to say instead. The alternative responses are ways to be better at persuasion and influence. They are customer service and sales gold. Note that this is not a complete list by any means. There are many variations of these types of statements.

#1 — Do not say: "No."

Don't use any other negative words either. They communicate that you're not interested in helping. It is anti-customer service and basically shuts down any dialogue. Replace "No" with any of the positive alternatives below.

#2 — Do not say: "Can’t."

You want to be perceived as customer friendly, right? Say what you CAN do. CAN'T communicates that you are unwilling to cooperate.


#3 — Reword: “I’ll have to...” as “I’d be happy too...”

The former makes it seem like a burden. The latter communicates you are pleased to handle it.

#4 — Replace: “That can’t be done” with “We can...”

You want clients saying: “Why would I ever go someplace else? These people are great to work with!”

#5 — Rephrase: “I would like you to...” as “Would you do me a favor?”

Don't tell people what you want. They don't care. Most people are willing to do you a favor though, because it's a request, not a command. You will find that people respond in a more positive manner.

#6 — Do not say: “It’s going to be a problem.”

This is one of the worst phrases a customer or client can hear. Life is full of problems already. Don't add to them. Instead say: “Here is what I recommend.”

#7 — Do not say: “I’ll try to...”

It doesn't communicate your commitment. Instead say: “I will.”  Can you feel the difference between these phrases? Remember the words of that wise philosopher Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try!”

#8 — Do not say: “That’s impossible.”

It communicates that you don't want to do something and you won't help. Worst of all, if someone else does what they've asked for, you will look incompetent. Instead say: “It’s possible we could ___.”

#9 — Do not say: “You’ll have to ask someone else.”

Say “Let me find out for you.” Customer service is not about telling the customer what you can't do, but about giving positive answers about what you CAN do.


#10 — Do not say: “That’s not practical” or “It doesn't make sense.”

Don't make judgments. Instead say: “Thanks for bringing that up. I can look into that choice for you.”

#11 — Do not say: “Our policy is...”

I have been known to respond to this with: “Don’t let your policies get in the way of good customer service.” Policy is the single most annoying word to a customer besides "No." Instead say: “What we have found works best is ___.”

#12 — Do not say: “Won’t.”

It can create anger and resentment. It communicates that you decided to not take care of a customer. Instead say: “I will be able to ___.” and look for a compromise that works.

#13 — Do not say: “I disagree.”

You are the expert in your field. But when you use this phrase, they are fighting words. Avoid confrontation by accepting that people have a variety of opinions. Instead say: “I understand your point of view. I’d like to share some other options with you.” Or “Have you considered ____?” 


Intent vs. perception

There is a very thin line in any dialogue between being tactful or persuasive and being misunderstood or confrontational. 

Your intent may be good, but the perception of the person you are speaking with may be completely different if the wrong words are used. Communication breakdowns occur between the sender's intent and the receiver’s perception. And all that matters is the receiver’s perception.


Grow your business by improving your verbal skills

You and your team's ability to communicate effectively with prospects and customers (both internal and external) has a tremendous impact on your business. It affects revenue, profit, customer satisfaction, morale, production, and your stress level.

Your first step is to be aware of what is being said. The next is to decide to start now improving where necessary. 

Want more advice on how to speak to your prospects and customers? SIX offers a range of sales training, consulting, and development services to help you grow your business. Schedule a short call to learn more


Howard Litwak

VP of Consulting & Certified Business Coach | SIX Marketing