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10 Sales Clichés to Avoid Like the Plague

These tired phrases drive your customers away. Here's what to say instead.

Every month, I critique dozens of sales emails, flyers, and websites. I'm often amazed at the creaky verbiage that salespeople and marketers believe will influence customers to buy. Here are 10 phrases that are long past their expiration date.

1. "Increase your productivity"

Every product that's sold to businesses promises to do this, so why bother saying so? In any case, productivity is such an abstract concept that it's practically meaningless. Say this instead: "Decreases the cost of [something] by [number] percent."

2. "Money-back guarantee"

While the ability to return a product for a refund makes sense, the phrase "money-back guarantee" reeks of carnival barkers selling slicer-dicers. Say this instead: "We accept returns."

3. "Saves time and money"

Once again, every product that's sold to businesses promises this, so stating it is wasted ink or breath. Time and money are the same thing, anyway, so it's also redundant. Say this instead: "Saves [specific amount of money] or eliminates [specific number of hours].

4. "Competitive advantage"

Selling more or making more profit than the other guy is a relatively simple concept. Why tart it up with biz-blab terminology. Say this instead: "Sell more than your competitors" or "Make more than your competitors."

5. "Feel free to call"

Customers neither need nor want permission to call you. If they're interested, they'll call, regardless of how "free" they feel about it. Say this instead: Nothing. If your telephone number is there, the customer will figure out what to do with it.

6. "For more information..."

Customers are already on permanent information overload. They don't need you telling them where they can get even more overloaded. Say this instead: Nothing. If they want more information they'll ask.

7. "What if I could..."

This phrase attempts to trap the customer into committing to buy, assuming you can deliver what's promised. Only one problem: Customers don't like feeling trapped. Say this instead: "Here's what would be different…"

8. "Unique opportunity"

The problem here is that opportunities are almost never one of a kind. Chances are you're offering the same "uniqueness" to all of your customers. Say this instead: Nothing. Buying something is never an "opportunity" except for the seller.

9. "At no obligation to you"

In fact, the moment you start doing business with somebody in any form, you're setting up mutual obligations, if only to communicate. So it's a lie. Say this instead: Nothing.

10. "I'm not trying to sell you anything."

Oh, yes, you are. Say this instead: "Here's what I'm proposing..."


Last updated: Jul 16, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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