Is Your Vocabulary Costing You Money?

By: Tom Hopkins

When we give a presentation to a future client not only do our appearance, visual aids, and body language relay a message, but the words we use create pictures in their minds. When we hear a word, we often picture a symbol of what that word represents. We may even attach emotions to some of these words. For example, let’s consider the words, SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN, WINTER. Depending on your particular experience, each of those words can generate positive or negative emotions in you, right?

The same applies to the words you use in your contacts with customers. You don’t know in advance which words will generate positive feelings in your clients about you, your product and your company. That’s why people in selling must become extra sensitive to the use of words if they want to have successful careers or businesses.

One of the most commonly used words in sales is the term “contract.” What type of mental image does that term bring to your mind especially when you picture yourself as a consumer? For most of us, it’s negative. We have an image of fine print, legalities and being locked into something that requires legal action to get out of. For this reason, I recommend that salespeople stop using that term, unless your particular line of business requires it. Instead, use the terms paperwork, agreement or form. Think about each of those terms for a moment. Do they bring to mind threatening images? If they do, I’ll bet those images are a lot less threatening than those created by the term contract. Do yourself a favor and eliminate that term from your vocabulary. Use paperwork, agreement or form instead.

What about the words “cost” and “price?” What pictures do they bring to your mind? If you’re like me, I see my hard-earned cash leaving my pocket. Substitute the terms investment or amount in place of cost or price. When most people hear investment, they envision getting a return on their money which is something positive. Now, there are products for which the term investment would not be appropriate so let’s use the term amount for them. That word has been proven to be less threatening to most consumers than the terms cost and price.

The same idea goes for the next terms, “down payment” and “monthly payment.” Most people envision down payments as large deposits that lock them into many smaller monthly payments for a considerable time period. They may see themselves receiving bills and writing checks every month. Not too positive a picture, is it? Replace those phrases with these: initial investment or initial amount and monthly investment or monthly amount.

The next terms I’d recommend you change are “sell” and “sold.” Many salespeople will tell prospective customers about how many units of their product they have sold. Or, they’ll brag about having sold the same product to another customer. What are the mental images here? No one likes the idea of or the feeling derived from being sold anything. It sounds as if the customer didn’t really have much say in the matter. Replace sell or sold with helped them acquire or got them involved.

Another term I feel is over-used by salespeople is the term “deal.” What does this bring to mind? Something we’ve always wanted, but never found. Top salespeople never offer deals to their clients. They offer opportunities or get them involved in transactions.
The last, but definitely not the least important term I recommend you change is “sign”. Never again ask a customer to sign your agreement, form or paperwork. We’ve all had it drilled into us from early childhood never to sign anything without careful consideration, haven’t we? So, why would you want to create that emotion in anyone you were trying to get happily involved in your product or service? Instead of asking them to sign, ask them to approve, authorize, endorse or OK your paperwork, agreement or form.

Tom Hopkins made his first million in sales by the age of 27. He accomplished this by making the subject of selling his hobby-studying every aspect of the sale in incredible detail. Today, he is world-renowned as a master sales trainer. Let him show you how to be a more effective and successful salesperson. Visit