Can You Cut This Word From Your Sales Conversations?

Your attitude has a major impact on your sales. That attitude is reflected a variety of ways, particularly in the language you use. What you say shapes how others see you, and some words that you don’t even suspect can have a negative impact. A recent article from Fast Company highlights one of those words: “but.” This tiny three-​letter word seems innocuous, but don’t be deceived.

Typically, ‘but’ follows a more positive statement and signals a note of disagreement, opposition, or confused thinking that’s just around the corner,” Judith Humphrey writes. While there certainly are times you will need to voice an objection, there are other ways to do so. She shares some common situations where replacing “but” may be a better choice:

When you need to disagree.

You don’t always have to agree with everything, so naturally, there will be times when you refute with a “but” statement. The word, though, may instantly set the other person on guard, as he or she knows a rebuttal is coming. Instead, consider replacing “but” with “and” for a different effect. Humphrey shares the following example:

Yes, I get your point, but …”


Yes, I get your point, and I’d like to expand upon it.”

Notice the subtle shift in tone between the two responses? As Humphrey explains, “’And’ introduces a more collaborative response and positions you as a positive, friendly colleague who’s shifting the conversation in a different direction, not turning it upside down.” A small change like this can prevent the conversation from immediately turning tense.

When you want to add a caveat.

While “but” seems like the perfect way to introduce a caveat or qualifier, doing so could undercut the message you just gave. For example, in the phrase, “I could do this, but I’ll need more time,” interjecting “but” in there seems logical to show you would need more time. Instead, though, consider simply breaking the phrase into two: “I can do it. I can have it to you next week.” If the other person needs it sooner, he or she will then let you know; there’s no need for you to raise the issue yourself. And, as Humphrey points out, this simple switch makes you appear more collaborative.

The next time you converse with a prospect, client or colleague, take note of how many times “but” pops up on your side of the conversation. How could omitting the word improve those conversations?

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.