Words to Avoid When Speaking to Clients

Whatever the nature of your business, chances are you have to interact with clients at some stage. Whether you are selling a product or service you will need to establish trust with customers in order to do business. There are however, simple harmless words that can damage this trust. Minimal changes in your deliberate choice of words can have a huge impact on your results.

If we use a backwards approach and focus on what not to say, then the correct thing to say becomes clearer. Here is a list of words to avoid as well as more useful and powerful alternatives.

Words to Avoid Using with Clients

1. Problem or Situation
Clients are not interested in knowing about problems and difficulties, they want solutions. Instead of saying there is a problem, say you are facing a challenge or that this is an opportunity to do something different. This implies action and positivity rather than focus on the dilemma and limitations.

2. But
This word is often used to disguise an “I can’t” and it essentially undermines the rest of the sentence. Try replacing it with an “and” instead. See the difference for yourself: “I like your plan but I think we can make it better” versus “I like your plan and I think we can make it better.” A subtle change in the same sentence conveys a much more encouraging message.

3. Attempt
This indicates doubt and uncertainty. It is either possible or not. Try using “I Will” instead. If you do not think it is possible then offer a few feasible alternatives. If you are unsure, then say you will look into it rather than try, as it makes it less personal to you.

4. Reality
Many people tend to use the expression “to tell you the truth” thinking that this builds instant trust. Unfortunately, it implies that everything else you have been saying isn’t the truth. If you emphasise something as being the truth then you are just highlighting the fact that the rest of your statements could be false. A definite no no in my book.

5. Ought to
Saying to a client they have to do something is likely to make them mad as they feel they are losing control. Try to say “You can” instead. For example, “You have to go through these files so we can move on” versus “You can go through these files so we can move on”. Same same but different!

6. Should
You may feel tempted to say to the client they should do this or that. Consider rephrasing it to give the client a sense of empowerment. Try saying “if we do this then that can happen” rather than “you should do this then that can happen”. Similar to point number 6 above.

7. Not my responsibility
Even if something is not your fault, saying it out loud to the client is a faux pas. The client does not care whose fault it was, they just want the situation to be resolved. Stating that you are responsible for the outcome builds trust and gives you credibility and authority. It does however mean that you will need to follow up if something does not go according to plan.

Words are an effective way of communicating and can affect your clients’ perception and opinion of you. If you are unsure about what to say, put yourself in the clients’ shoes and ask yourself what you would prefer to hear.

Are there any words or phrases that you have learned not to use?

Photo provided by Flickr user royblumenthal

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