8 Sales Catch Phrases to Seal the Deal
What you have to say matters, but so does how you say it. Your choice of words can make the difference in whether people react with trust or suspicion. It can encourage them to be adventurous or to become risk-averse. And it can make them feel powerful to make choices and try new options, or powerless.
Psychological research shows that certain phrases consistently tend to increase persuasiveness. Psychologists refer to phrases that subtly encourage a certain mood as “primes.” In sales, how your words prime people can ultimately tip the balance one way or another. Here are some psychological findings you should know about and some catch phrases that can make or break sales.
1“But you are free”
No one wants to feel forced into making a choice, because then it’s not really a choice anymore. That’s why reminding people that the decision is ultimately theirs makes you more persuasive. This technique is well researched, and psychologists often call it the “but you are free” technique – as in, “...but you’re free not to.”
Now, when I tell you it’s well researched, I’m not kidding. A meta-analysis of 42 separate studies found evidence that this technique reliably makes people more compliant with requests.
Although “but you are free” is the classic wording of this technique, there are many variants on the phrase you can use. “It’s up to you,” for example.
Regardless of the exact phrasing you decide on, one thing to keep in mind is that the meta-analysis of 42 studies also found evidence that this technique is most effective when you’re looking for an immediate response. So while reminding people that the decision is theirs increases their chances of committing right away, saying “it’s up to you” loses some power when people are going to take a few days to think about it.
2“What decision are you leaning toward?”
Turning the “but you are free” catch phrase into a question is a way to both remind people that the decision’s in their hands and prompt them for an immediate response. This catch phrase also has the advantage of framing the situation as a choice between defined options that you have laid out.
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As you can see, there’s plenty of room for creativity with the “but you are free” technique. In fact, one study suggests that this effect is so powerful that even just wearing a T-shirt with the word “Liberty” on it might achieve similar results.
3“You will have the power to…”
In sales, there’s a delicate dance going on between risk taking and risk aversion. Sales involves convincing people to take a risk on a new product or service. The more risk-averse people feel, the more of an uphill climb making a sale is.
Research has shown that one way to make people feel less risk-averse is by priming them to feel powerful. You can accomplish this with the catch phrase “you will have the power to…” – as in, “with this product, you will have the power to...”
This relationship between power and risk taking is another possible explanation for why the “but you are free” technique works too – when people feel empowered to make their own decisions, they become less averse to taking risks.
4“You and your...”
When you’re making a sale, you aren’t just talking to an individual. You’re talking to someone who belongs to multiple communities – their family, their workplace, and so on.
As it turns out, whether people are primed to see themselves as separate individuals or as interdependent with other people changes the way they make decisions. In particular, emphasizing people’s interdependence with others makes them more willing to take financial risks .
With this goal in mind, try using phrases like “you and your family,” “you and your coworkers,” or “you and your employees.” It suggests that your customer is making the choice together with people who are close to him or her, which in turn leads to being less risk-averse.
5“Our other customers”
One way of dealing with risk aversion as an obstacle to making sales is by priming people to become less risk averse. Another way to go, though, is to frame yourself as a less risky option. Sure, people may be risk averse, but that’s OK because you’re the safe choice!
People learn from the behavior of other people, so providing social proof almost always strengthens your brand. But emphasizing yourself as a tried-and-true option is especially persuasive with more risk-averse customers . Using the phrase “our other customers” offers implicit evidence that your product or services have been put to the test and found to be a safe bet.
Offering a “money-back guarantee” is a classic sales line because it works to reduce risk aversion . With a money-back guarantee, what is there to lose?
Additional research has found that using this catch phrase has another benefit too: it signals product quality. By offering a money-back guarantee, you’re demonstrating your confidence that people will be satisfied with your product. Depending on your product, you can also offer a free trial in place of a money-back guarantee, which again reduces risk perception but frees you from the logistical complications involved in implementing a money-back guarantee.
When making a sale, you often have to strike a healthy balance between emphasizing novelty and reliability. People want a product that’s new and fresh, but not so new and fresh that they don’t know whether it’ll even work.
“That exists” is a catch phrase that can be used to highlight how a new idea is grounded in reality. A study of the language used in Kickstarter projects revealed that projects using this catch phrase were significantly more likely to ultimately be funded. Here’s an example from the study:
...we have one remaining trip to Japan, where we hope to cover the creation of home video technology, as well as the extremely unique direct-to-video market that exists there.
The same study found that when projects billed themselves as new but used vague language, they were it less likely to be funded. In particular, the catch phrase “a new form of” damaged projects’ chances of being funded. An example from the study was a project that stated part of its goal as “allowing students to experience a new form of discovery, curiosity and mystery.”
However, framing your product or services as novel does work as long as you do it in a concrete way. For instance, it turns out that patients are more likely to accept a surgery that’s described as “innovative” and “state-of-the-art.” In this case, the surgery being described really was innovative – it was done robotically. In other words, if a product has aspects that are innovative, it’s helpful to outline those aspects, and then to explicitly say that they’re “innovative.”
In other words, while you should avoid overly general statements about how the entire product is a “new form of” something, it’s still helpful to highlight specifically how your product is “innovative” and “state-of-the-art.” And besides novelty, emphasize reliability too by connecting your product to a wider category of something “that exists.”
In general, the more you have solid logic behind what you’re saying, the more persuasive you become. The word “because” is a cue that you’re backing up your point with logical reasoning.
A classic study found that people are more likely to let a requester use a copier when the requester uses the word “because.” Interestingly, this is true even when the requester doesn’t actually give a reason – for example, if they ask to use the copier “...because I have to make copies.” This result suggests that the word “because” in and of itself makes a request seem more reasonable and easy to accept.
From “because” to “but you are free,” these techniques show how sales catch phrases can make a crucial difference. You’re more likely to close sales when people feel excited, free to make up their mind, and ready to take a risk on something new, but also have trust that your option is reliable and proven.
That’s why your choice of language is important. This is the science of sales: research in psychology has shown that certain phrases tend to increase or decrease persuasiveness.
Of course, there’s another half of the story, and that’s the art of sales: finding when to use these phrases for maximal impact. The research tells us which sales catch phrases are the most effective, but when it comes to determining when and how to use these catch phrases, your creativity is the limit!