Avoid the word sell when selling. When the term sell is used, sellers are left high and dry as all other parties look on them as pariahs.

Successful sellers steer clear off the word sell. And many other words to avoid when selling.

This is because the word sell is pleasurable only to sellers.  To everyone else, most of all buyers, it grates on the nerves.  This is the sad truth about selling.

The word sell is loved in principle not practice. Avoid it

In principle everyone, buyers, sellers and sundry, all agree that selling is important and enthusiastically admire successful sellers.  In practice though, and quite paradoxically, when the term sell is used when selling, sellers are left high and dry, as all other parties look on them as pariahs. 

“I’ll sell you this pump”, is factually correct but emotionally suspect. Lizzie, who sells for an IT firm in town, and who meets her sales targets month on month, year in year out, uses the word, give. “Why don’t you add Kes. 6,000 to the price of the laptop and I’ll give you this laptop bag too.” Give. Give!  She almost makes it sound like it’s for free, and yet you both know it’s not.  But replace give with sell and you feel the subtle emotional friction it creates. It may be subtle, but undercurrents are anything but. Which is why it’s best to avoid the word sell when selling.

Different. But same

Interestingly, in the context shared, both mean the same thing. But sell makes it sound transactional. The buyer feels like he is being made to buy something he doesn’t need.  He feels feel like he is being used to propel you across the finishing line that is your targets. 

Avoid the word sell when selling

The paradox of the matter

Now here’s an interesting paradox: successful sellers will tell you that they have buyers that will happily buy something they don’t need just to push the seller over the finishing line.

And buyers do so because the seller was genuine in his appeal to them. “It’s been a rough two quarters and my job is on the line,” many a bank relationship manager have said to a buyer.  “I need a deposit of one billion shillings before this quarter expires next week.  Please help me out.” The buyer agrees.  This doesn’t happen with all buyers of course; only a chosen few.  Now, instead of, “Please help me out”, if this seller had said , “Let me sell you this account”, how successful do you suppose he would have been?

Just avoid the word sell when selling

The word sell makes the buyer-seller relationship fear instead of value based. It gives the sense of doing something to somebody rather than something for somebody, or with somebody.

Successful sellers know that buyers are first human beings ahead of potential buyers. And so they avoid the word sell. So instead of, “I can sell you this platform to help you with creating polls”, they say instead, “This platform will empower you to make informed (or data driven) decisions.” This way the buyer feels the purchase was driven by (his) intrinsic choice rather than (the seller’s) extrinsic pressure.

The sales office air is constantly punctured with the word sell. “Last week we surpassed our sales targets”; “We are short of our targets. Go out and sell!” Wisdom exists in leaving the word sell there, in the sales office.


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