Poison Words:
The Top 6 Words that Sabotage Sales

by Jacques Werth, Founder of High Probability Selling.  © 2006

One of the quickest ways to turn off your sales prospects is to use Poison Words.  Poison Words are words or phrases that trigger suspicion, mistrust and loss of respect.  Ironically, several Poison Words are part of traditional sales techniques and are intended to create trust and “build rapport.”  Chances are that you're inadvertently sabotaging your sales with one or more of these Poison Words!


Interested is the word that salespeople use when they don't want to hear “No.”  Interested is the word that prospects use when they don't want to say “Yes.”  There is no commitment in interest.

People are “interested” in all sorts of things: Information on lavish vacations, luxury homes, high-end cars, space travel, etc.  Interested people enjoy gathering information.  That does not mean that they intend to buy anything.

A High Probability Prospect is not merely interested.  They need, want and can afford to buy what you're selling, now.  Don't waste time with prospects that are “interested,” but not in the market to buy, Now.


Teachers, nurses, and social workers are in Helping Professions.  Accountants, Engineers, Carpenters, Bulldozer Manufacturers, and Salespeople are not.  They provide products and services in order to generate revenues and/or commissions.  Prospects know this.  When you claim to be there merely to “help” the prospect, you instill doubt and suspicion.

“Honestly” or “To Tell the Truth”

What happens when you say, “To be honest with you...”?  You provoke this thought: “Oh, so now you going to be honest... was the rest all lies and distortions?”

In High Probability Selling, Trust and Respect are fundamental to the relationship with prospects and customers.  Being consistently forth-coming is not just “the best policy” - it's crucial to successful selling.


“I just wanted to let you know...” or “Just fifteen minutes of your time.”  What does the word “just” imply in sales situations?  You seem to be trivializing your communication in order to disarm the prospect.  You're minimizing the importance of your products and services, and your own time.  If someone is truly in the market for your product or service, it's an important priority for them.  Don't trivialize yourself or your prospects' needs.

Thank You

While gratitude in a business situation is occasionally warranted, “Thank You” is one of the phrases most over-used, abused, and rendered meaningless by salespeople.  There is no need to thank prospects for their time and attention.  If someone is a High Probability Prospect, they want, need, and can afford what you're selling - and they want to talk to you.  They want to do business.  Repeatedly thanking prospects and customers implies a subservient, begging, position, which will cause a loss of respect for you.  It's a great way to sabotage sales and lose business.


The prospect says he wants you to visit him to discuss one of your products or services, and you say, “Great!”  Or, the prospect says she is in the market for your kind of product and you say, “Great!”  You sound as if you are desperate, or perhaps have a warped sense of values.  The prospect is bound to wonder, “Is it 'great' because you rarely get those types of reactions?”  Or maybe you equate getting an order with having a baby or ending a war.  If you are a professional salesperson, doing your job is not 'great!,' it is routine.

Look over these Top 6 Poison Words.  You'll notice a couple of themes: 1) Phoniness and 2) a Subservient/Begging Posture.  If you perceive someone to be insincere and phony, do you want to do business with them?  If someone grovels towards you, what is your reaction?

In High Probability Selling, we have a list of 30 Poison Words, and we train salespeople to eliminate them from their vocabulary.  Fake bonhomie, false concern, and manipulative patter are hallmarks of the stereotypical salesperson.  Any words that create mistrust, manipulate prospects or indicate insincerity quash potential sales.

People want to do business with people they can trust and respect.  The words you choose can arouse suspicion, or they can reflect a posture of trust and respect.  Choose your words carefully!