In Sales? Don’t Use the Word “They”


If you’re in sales, then you might want to consider the following. When talking to a customer, we often use the word “WE” when selling the product’s or service’s benefits. This is a powerful word and conveys a team standing behind whatever we are selling. As a result, the customer feels a bit more confident about their buying decision.

Of course, we use the word “WE” because we know it’s not “ME” producing or offering the product or service. It’s the company that is, and we have chosen to be a part of that company. We often convey to the customer that we are proud of the company, product, and service. That’s why we work for the company, and that’s why the customer will be quite happy if they “join the club” and buy today.

However, we must understand that not all transactions are as wonderful as we would like them to be. Sometimes the product fails; sometimes, the product or service doesn’t meet the customer’s expectation; and sometimes, the customer is flat-out lied to about the expected result. The customer will likely return to address the situation.

The next thing we know, the customer is back and face-to-face with the sales staff. This is normally when the word “THEY” comes out. We hear things like “they have a policy against that,” or “they didn’t get to it” or even “they don’t give refunds.”

The word “they” represent an outside party. You, me, and we are not a part of “they.” Imagine for a moment what that conveys to the customer. Yesterday it was “we,” and now, suddenly, you have separated yourself from the organization. YOU are not really in a position to help the customer when YOU are not a part of that organization.

It seems to me that when you use “they” to address a problem, you actually hurt yourself and the organization considerably more than if you use the word “we” or “I.” This is because when you use the word “they,” you come across as weak, uncaring, and unauthentic. After all, you were “we” when you sold it, and if I come back tomorrow, you will probably still be working here. So why are you suddenly separating yourself from the organization you evidently love so much when I need some help?

That customer’s experience with YOU just went from bad to worse. What you don’t know is that the customer actually enjoys confrontation and looks forward to writing their review of this horrible experience when they get home. And while the customer may not have specifically noticed you distance yourself from the company, I would bet a lot of money that the customer’s subconscious did, and the customer not only doesn’t feel good about it but will also likely not return in the future.  

When it comes to sales, I advise taking ownership of the situation. Think about the feelings associated with the following statements. “WE will do whatever we can to remedy the situation Mr. Customer.” Or “We actually don’t allow returns after 90 days.” Or “I can’t promise anything, but I will talk with MY team immediately to see what I can do for you.” No matter how you cut it, it’s a much better feeling than “they,” and even if YOU cannot help the customer the way the customer would want, the customer will surely appreciate your ownership and sincerity.

Let me leave you with a book recommendation. You might check out Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide for Starting Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, E-Mail, and Cold Calling

Did you enjoy this sales tip? If so, you might enjoy an article I wrote titled “Beware of Self-Serving Bias.