Thanksgiving is a wonderful American holiday where we give thanks for the blessings of our lives and recall the gratitude the pilgrims felt for making it through the harvest.  But now that it’s over please save your thanks for your personal life and your customers and colleagues, but not your prospects.


And the corollary – STOP SAYING “PLEASE”.

At every sales workshop I lead, I define sales professionals as those sellers who know their process, know their messaging, and practice a set of disciplines every day to pull it all together. One of those disciplines is using “STRONG Language, Not Weak.” The only way salespeople can ensure they themselves are on at least equal footing with their prospects is with the words that come out of their mouths.  Use weak language and the prospect will treat you like a tool, a means to an end, or worse, a gofer, someone whose role is to fetch things for them.  And make no mistake:  Thanking your prospect will hurt more than it will help. 

Whenever I hear a seller ask for something from the prospect with a “please” I think of Oliver Twist asking for some more porridge.

Who has the power in that relationship?  Certainly, not Oliver.

While it may be true that at the moment sellers say “Thanks” or “Please” because they are truly grateful for the opportunity being in their pipeline or that the opportunity looks like it will close.  Nevertheless, they have to pretend that it’s the prospect who should be grateful.  After all, how will the prospect ever reach his goals or objectives without their product or service?

Consider these snippets of sales calls:

Seller:  Can we please find 15-30 minutes for me to show you…?

Prospect:  Sure, I can meet your next week for 30 minutes to learn more about it…

Seller:  Thank you (so much, dear overlord)! 

Ok, I added that last bit.

Are the seller and prospect on even footing right at the start of this potential opportunity? No.

Who has the power in the budding relationship? Certainly not the seller asking with a “please” and closing with a “Thank you.” 

The seller is telegraphing that the prospect’s calendar time is so much more valuable than the seller’s, that it’s an imposition just to ask for time to talk.  This subtle conversational faux pas gives the prospect the impression that the seller’s time is of little or no value and he is not to be respected. If this opportunity even makes it to a negotiation, who do you think is more likely to have the upper hand?  Likely, not the seller.

Seller:  How do you do … today?

Prospect:  Well, we struggle to do it this way, that way, and the other…

Seller:  Oh, thank you (for telling me that).

Here, the seller’s gratitude comes off as both selfish and obsequious.  The prospect hears “thank you” and thinks, “I’ve just revealed a deep struggle we are having and your ‘thanks’ sounds too much like ‘Great!’ yeah, great for you, this info will help you make a fat commission!

Additionally, the prospect hears “thank you” and also thinks, “well how thankful are you?  How about showing me your thankfulness by giving me more stuff and a bigger discount?

Now, I recognize that a lot of you reading this will think the sellers saying Please and Thank You are polite people who were raised right, and I am a rude jerk.  100% of the time when I discuss this STRONG language discipline with a client’s team, I lay it out and pause. And PAUSE. 

Invariably, a veteran seller in the audience clears his or her throat and tells the team that I’m right, that Please and Thank You always puts them in a junior position, and they hate it.

Or, an executive who is often in the position of a prospect will pipe in that, on reflection, they agree that when they hear it from sellers, it makes the seller seem weak or junior and both put the exec in a superior position.   

So, please stop with the please and thank you when talking to prospects.

I’ll close with this:  Years ago, at a sales kickoff, I heard a non-sales speaker who had overcome immense hardship in reaching his high level of success.  He was a refugee who had escaped terrible persecution.  Yet, he felt that kindness and gratitude – including saying “please” and “thank you” as a discipline, especially to strangers – were keys to his success in life and business.  He stressed that the world would be a better place if we would just be kinder to each other. It worked for him and will work for us.  Up to that point, I’m sure I was often a self-absorbed not so gracious social and professional climber. I was a rather new-ish father as well.   

His message hit me like a slap in the face.  

Ever since I’ve tried hard to live and model a life of kindness and gratitude.  I just reserve the “please” and “thank you” for my personal life, my clients, and my colleagues, not my prospects.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

A lot of the disciplines and personality traits that make a good salesperson also make a good person and a good life partner.    Here’s a list of life partner traits that describe someone with high emotional intelligence. According to Kirstie Taylor, you can spot someone with high emotional intelligence by noticing the following:

  • They pause and think before they say
  • They don’t lash out
  • They can admit when they’re wrong
  • They give genuine praise/compliments
  • They keep commitments
  • They don’t make empty promises
  • They don’t play games

Same with great salespeople, no?

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

Are you getting older?  Yes.  Are your parents or other loved ones?  Yes.  You all need to read this because it’s NEVER too late.

Good Selling!