Here are eight verbal slip-ups you should try with all your might never to make:
1. Mangle a client’s name. Nothing frustrates people more than hearing their name pronounced incorrectly—or called by another name altogether. This is perceived as a clear indication that you don’t care. Do your research in advance and know all the names (and pronunciations) of the people you will be working with. When you meet someone new, write down his or her name along with the phonetic spelling in your notebook—or just simply ask the person how his or her name is pronounced at the very beginning to save you the embarrassment.
2. Mangle a client’s company name. Just like our own names, the name of our company is extremely important. Know how to spell and pronounce the company name of all your clients, paying close attention to spelling and capitalization—especially intercaps (PayPal, eBay, etc.).
3. Quote a price or turnaround range. When you are discussing prices or deadlines, you and the customer will both hear what they/you deem most favorable in the range you’ve cited. When it comes to prices, if you say, “between $500 and $700,” the customer will hear the low number and you will hear the high number. This sets you both up for disappointment. Same is true for time ranges. Quote exact numbers, not ranges.
4. Make observational statements based on assumption. One of my sales reps once approached a female client and said, “Congratulations! I just noticed. When are you expecting?” She wasn’t. His intentions, via an assumption, were to break through to a personal connection. Suffice it to say, he didn’t. Never make assumptions about anyone’s physical state or relationship (“This must be your daughter”).
5. “We really need this project.” Even if you do, this tells the client one thing: Your business is unstable. While you may think that you are indicating to the customer that you will do everything to cater to him, he’s hearing that you are in desperation mode. Nothing gets customers running to the competition like a vendor who is financially (or otherwise) unstable. Instead, start saying “Delivering on your every need is our top priority.”
6. “What does your company do?” When it comes to building relationship, asking questions and listening is essential. That is unless the questions you ask indicate that you haven’t prepared in advance. Clients want vendors who are prepared. So instead of asking what your client does, say “From my research I understand you do financial consulting. Tell me more.”
7. “We will put our A-team on your project.” It sounds like you are catering to the client, but it indicates that the rest of your company is the B-team. Instead, tell your client, “Our entire company is made up of the best people in the industry. I have cherry picked specific team members who have strong backgrounds in your specific needs.”
8. “I am sorry, but. . .” The word “but” gets interpreted by your client as “I won’t make the effort.” The word “but” signals “I give up.” Instead use the word “and.” For example, “I am sorry, and here is the resolutions I have come up with.”
Mike Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consultancy that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again