Few things Bill Clinton ever said will be remembered as clearly as his finger wagging statement about Monica Lewinsky.  Yes, those 9 words changed a presidency, tarnished a legacy and cost the American taxpayers over seven million dollars.  At more than three-quarters of a million dollars per word, it’s a textbook example of how truly valuable (or costly) words can be.

Words are important because of the values and emotions we assign to them.  They are little symbols of our hopes, fears and ideas that enable us to share our thoughts with others.  Because they are often highly charged with emotion, it’s critical we choose our words wisely.  In many situations, every word counts.

Bill Clinton’s poor choice led to his impeachment and we should pay attention or possibly face a similar fate in our own life.  No, chances are few readers will be in a position to be impeached; however, using the wrong words might cause us to be figuratively removed from the offices of our clients and prospects!  This won’t happen with the fanfare of Ken Star and the Associated Press, but occurs silently as prospects favor other proposals or existing clients begin working with the competition.

How can we make better word choices and avoid sales suicide?

It’s important that we examine our words to insure that they clearly communicate our message and avoid fear inducing words, especially as we approach the “red zone” of the closing.  Here is a simplified example to illustrate the concept:

“Kryptonite” Kathy: “Mr. Smith, to complete this sale, I will need you to sign this contract.”

Peter Prospect: “Sorry, Krypto, but I’m not signing anything.  I’m not an attorney, I hate legal mumbo jumbo and if you don’t want my business, I’ll just go down the street to ABC Motors. ”

Result: Peter was intimidated by the fear inducing words and his fight or flight reaction showed it.  He suspects that Kathy will either give in or that he can find someone else who won’t require him to sign a written contract.  What should have been a fat commission check has now turned into a psychological showdown and test of wills.

Let’s try an approach without the fear inducing words.

“Superman” Sammy:  “Peter, you seem eager to enjoy one of the finest automobiles ever made.  If you will simply authorize the paperwork, allowing our delivery team to get everything exactly how you want it, we’ll have this beautiful car in your driveway tonight.”

Peter Prospect: Sam, I appreciate your attention to detail.  What time will the car be delivered?

Result: Happy customer and a large commission.

While these two approaches had the same goal, the approach is dramatically different.   Kryptonite Kathy’s closing was very formal, using the prospect’s last name and contained the fear inducing words “sign” and “contract.”  Like a hammer coming down heavy on a steel anvil, there was nothing to soften the blow.

Superman Sammy’s example was a softer approach, what I call the “iron fist in a velvet glove.”  The prospect’s first name is used to make it friendly and positive words like “eager”, “enjoy”, “finest”, “authorize”, “exactly” and “personally” are liberally sprinkled throughout.  The word “paperwork” is used instead of “contract” to minimize fear and make it sound customary and expected.  A reference to the purpose of the paperwork is also given, explaining that its goal is to get everything exactly how the new customer would like it.  Most importantly, the psychology of the transaction is completely changed from signing a contract to one of authority, enabling the team to please the prospect.

There is little doubt which of these two examples would produce more customers over time.  Here is a list of fear inducing words to avoid and better choices that may be used instead.

Fear Inducing Words  


Difficult or hard


Price or fee

Monthly cost










To tell you the truth

Trust me

We’ll try


I’m really not sure

Better Choices

Paperwork or agreement

Easy and simple

Invest, own, claim or reserve

Investment, initial investment or value

Monthly investment



Economical, thrifty or best value

Eliminate altogether




Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

Eliminate altogether

We will


I’ll find out

By clearly communicating and choosing words wisely, we can remove much of the anxiety prospects feel and foster a relationship of trust and friendship.  These factors are critical for long term success and form the basis for all of our successful  partnerships in life.

© Copyright 2009 Doug Dickson, All rights reserved.