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Sales Language: What's Wrong with But?

By Shamus Brown
Posted Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Language is one of the most important tools you have to influence someone.

The most successful salespeople and persuaders use positive, active sales language that instills confidence in them and their capabilities.

Here is one word that you'll want to avoid using as much as possible when you are selling and persuading.

Read the following sentences:

"I really like your company, but I am not going to buy from you."

"You gave the best presentation, but we are going to buy from the Access Company."

When prospects say things like these, what they are really telling you is that they didn't like your company enough or you didn't give a good enough presentation to get the business.

The prospect's usage of the word 'but' acts to negate whatever came before it. And just as hearing 'but' from a prospect is often a negative message to you, using 'but' in your sales language can hurt your rapport with your prospects.

What would happen if this were your response to a customer's stated project budget?

"I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, but let me tell you why our system costs $100,000."

You have just given the message to the prospect that you don't care about their budget. You think they should find more money to spend with you (and maybe they should, but such an attitude will not help you get the sale).

To stay in rapport with your prospect, replace the word 'but' with the word 'and'.

See here how it works:

"I see that you only have a budget of $50,000, and let me tell you why our system costs $100,000."

You have now shown respect for your prospect and his budget.

In using the word 'and' you acknowledge that they only have a budget of $50,000. People like to be acknowledged, and hate to be ignored.

Prospects hate it when they feel that a salesperson isn't listening. Its one of the major reasons why salespeople get little respect in the world today.

The next time you catch yourself using 'but' in a way that disrespects what someone just said, practice changing your sales language by saying the same thing again using 'and' instead of 'but'.

Do this a few times and you'll find yourself using 'and' instead of 'but' and you'll have more rapport with more prospects.

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at ( and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at (


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