Five Sales & Marketing Phrases That Need to Die

We’ve all seen product marketing and sales phrases on websites, in collateral, and even in demos, that have made us cringe. Let’s admit it: we’ve all used them at one point or another too. But each has a price to pay.

They flow off our tongues and our fingers because we mean the ideas behind them — we really, honestly do. We use them in the hope they imbue expertise, instill authority, and impress.

But these phrases are lazy. In reality, they carry no weight with the people we talk to. At best, they slip past unnoticed, with no positive or negative connotations. At worst, they are realized for the lackadaisical facades they are and devalue your positioning.

Now is the time to pick up the thesaurus, think carefully about what we mean, and erase these monstrosities from our vocabulary.

In no particular order, here are my suggestions for the five worst phrases in the modern marketing and sales lexicon, and some recommendations on how to banish them from daily usage.

🔑 Key features

“Hi, prospect who was expensive to acquire! Let me whet your whistle with this, our 100-strong list of key product features. You will find this almost seductively tantalizing, and will soon be begging for a quote.” Or… not.

A feature is, by definition, a distinctive, prominent attribute or aspect. Firstly, if you’re selling mostly on features, you’re doing your product a disservice. Secondly, not every button and minor product capability is a feature. Thirdly, not every feature can be a key feature. Use these wisely.

My recommendation: Lead with benefits, and link to a small number of key features.

🏢 Enterprise-grade

“Hello, unworthy SMB with growth aspirations. Can I tempt you in my enterprise-grade product? By enterprise-grade, I mean it’s likely expensive and has a UI you’ll find confusing: but trust me, it’s worth it.”

This phrase is used mostly in the hope it builds trust — both through social proof, and to prove that you’re ‘the real-deal’. It’s enterprise-grade, so trusted by large enterprises, titans of industries, and darlings of the market. Except it doesn’t. If it was used and trusted by enterprises, you would just say that. Pulling the wool over your prospects eyes won’t work.

As I alluded to above, enterprise-grade can come with negative connotations. Expensive. Bloated. Bulky. Complex. Is that really the impression you want to give?

My recommendation: Stop using this now. Be more transparent about what you mean, and explain it in language your prospects will understand. Prove you’re the real deal through execution.

🙏 Empowers

“The competition? Well, you can do that with them. Or, you can choose our platform. It empowers you. You can do more. You can do better. You will be empowered. You will be able to do more than you ever thought possible. Somehow.”

Empowering is so modern, so technology, so Silicon Valley. “Our product empowers our users and makes the world a better place.” It’s passive, but it just sounds so… spiritual. Who cares what it means if I’m going to be better?

The downside? We usually use this phrase when we want to say that our product may help you achieve something, but to be honest, it depends how much effort you put into it. It sounds too good to be true, and this time, it actually is.

My recommendation: tell it how it is. What’s the end benefit to be gained? “You’ll win new customers” means more than “Our product will empower you with the tools you need to blah blah blah.”

🚀 Best of breed

“Our best-of-breed platform is the best in our breed. You need a best-in-breed solution. Only ours is a best-in-breed tool.”

Best-of-breed, or best-in-breed, usually means “we have a small portion of the overall features you’re looking for, but we do them really well.” Best in a niche. And of course, we don’t explain why it’s the best. It’s just ‘the best’. Simply ‘the best’ in the market. Best in the small, underserved market. We’re number one!

Prospects aren’t dazzled by your ‘best in breed’ aura. Rather than shed some light on your true market status, it clouds the situation with a thick layer of doubt and suspicion. “Is this what we’re looking for?” they’ll ask, privately, while looking at your more fully-featured competitors.

My recommendation: Focus on what makes you the best, how, why it matters, and why your prospect should care about it.

🕵 Complete with

“You’ll just love our product. Not only does it do this, this, and this, but you’ll also be able to do this! But wait. There’s more! It comes complete with this, which you won’t find anywhere else!”

Is your product advertised on late-night/early-morning infomercials on arbitrary satellite channels? Sure, it makes sense when you want to get the most bang for your buck; if you’re going to spend $149.95 on a food processor, getting a recipe DVD (debatably) is a positive.

That’s probably not how you sell your product, but it’s definitely how your prospects interpret it. As customers, we’re trained to think that quantity is better than quality, cheap is good, and getting a combination of both is the sweet-spot. I bet that’s not how you want your product to be seen.

My recommendation: Help your prospects see value in your entire solution, and charge accordingly. It’s unlikely they’ll assign real value to the throwaway, afterthought additions you add to the deal, and may end up devaluing your solution.


What would you like to see eliminated from the marketing/sales phrasebook? Get in touch on Twitter @james_mdp.