Subtle word changes can have a big impact on your success rate with clients, and there are a few phrases out there that are guaranteed sales-killers. People are constantly responding to your words with positive or negative emotions. Create too many negative emotions and customers will pull away from you. You may not even be aware of negative phrases you’ve used, so we’re going to point them out to you.

Here’s sales-killer No. 1: “I can’t,” as in “I can’t find a home in that neighborhood in your price range.” Better: “I’d like to expand our search to other neighborhoods to find something that meets your budget. Is that ok?” 

The first phrase is negative–a downer, a conversation-killer. Always substitute “I choose to,” or “I’d like to,” in place of “I can’t.” It keeps you thinking about your options and it makes your client feel hopeful and empowered. Here are a few other phrases to watch out for:

“Here’s the problem.” Customers don’t want to hear your problems; they want to know what you are going to do to help them. Substitute words like challenge, obstacle, or opportunity. These words imply action, as in “This is our challenge–we need to fix up this house for sale on a small budget! Let’s talk about where to start.”

“It’s not my fault.” This phrase is the quiet killer, because you probably don’t say it out loud to your clients. You just think it. They hear you anyway. When things go wrong, forget whose fault it is. Instead, focus on the solution by affirming, “I am totally responsible for what I do next.”

“I’ll try.” The phrase is heavy with doubt. It gives customers the feeling that you will not be able to help them. Instead use “I will…” If you aren’t sure you can give the client what they are asking for, such as a quick sale at a high price, explain what you will do and for how long. Then explain the client’s options if there are no offers after a few weeks.

“But…” This word is often a hidden “I can’t,” as in “We’ll market your property at this price but I can’t guarantee it will sell.” Instead, substitute the word “and,” as in “I will market your property at this price for four weeks, and if we get no offers, I’m going to ask you for a price adjustment.”

“I need…” Customers hire you to help them with their needs. They don’t want to hear about yours. Instead of saying, “I need to get this paperwork signed by Thursday,” say, “When is the soonest you can have this back to me? The deadline is Thursday.”

“You should…” This phrase kills marriages as well as sales. You might want to say, “You should paint the exterior and remove all these dead shrubs.” Instead, empower the customer by asking, “What do you want to do to spruce up your home for sale?”

“You have to,” as in “you have to list at such and such price if you want to get any activity.” This phrasing makes people mad, because it takes away their control. Try instead, “You can position this property anywhere in the market that fits your needs, considering that homes sell faster at one price compared to another.”

Here are some phrases that apply specifically to real estate situations:

“Taken off the market” versus “rejected by the market

When working with expired listings, agents often say, “I noticed your home has been taken off the market. What if you said instead, “your home was rejected by the market”? No one wants to be rejected. You are prompting an emotion that drives the conversation to the desired outcome. This phrase also works for sellers who want to price too high, as in, “What do you want to do if the market rejects your price?”

“Existing home” versus “established home”

Consider this common buyer objection: “We’re thinking of building a new home instead of buying an existing one.” The word “existing” evokes little emotion; so in your response use the word “established home” to evoke an image of a home with the charm that comes with finishing touches and full landscaping.

“Lower your price” versus “reposition your home in the marketplace”

When you call a seller to suggest a price reduction, you put him on the defensive. The alternative, “reposition your home in the marketplace,” puts the focus on market signals and leaves the seller free from blame.

The key in all these phrase choices is selecting words that open up possibilities instead of closing them down. As long as we feel we have options, we feel energized in taking the next step in a transaction or any other activity in life. That’s the power of word choice!

Howard Brinton is a real estate sales motivational speaker and the founder and CEO of Star Power Systems, a sales training organization that offers tapes, books, videos, conferences and a club that distributes selling techniques from the nation’s top producers.


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