1. I guarantee. That’s a very dangerous word. It implies “money back” or “this investment will do exactly what I said.” Guarantee is an absolute.
Better: “Here’s what we are looking for.” Also, “here’s what we are hoping for under the following circumstances.”

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2. Call me anytime. It’s another absolute expression. 24/7. While on vacation. In the maternity ward. In perpetuity. The expression also implies you will accept their call.
Better: “When you call, I will try to answer. If I can’t, I will try to get back to you within 24 hours.”

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3. That’s why you pay me the big bucks. It’s tempting to say when a stock or the market performs as you anticipated. Your client praises your genius. In a playful mood, you counter with “that’s why you pay me…” They immediately shift to “I’m overpaying.”
Better: “We were fortunate things worked out. You get credit too because you took my suggestion (followed my advice).”

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4. I promise. It’s right up there with the word “guarantee.” You are making an absolute statement. You will deliver regardless. It’s open ended. You will continue doing what you “promised” forever. At least that’s how the listener perceives it. Think about the young child who tearfully says to a parent “You promised.”
Better: “It’s my intention” or “I will try to do my best to …”

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5. (Firm) are they still in business? A prospect tells you the name of their current firm, a competitor. You make this remark jokingly. They are now on the defensive because you implied they chose badly. You don’t light your own candle by blowing out someone else’s.
Better: “They are a fine firm, but this is what we bring to the table.”

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6. I’ve got an important call I’ve got to take. It happens during a meeting or a phone conversation. It implies the current caller is unimportant.
Better: “I need a moment to help another client with a time-sensitive issue. Is it OK if I put you on hold for a moment? I’ll try to be as fast as possible.”

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7. We have no idea what the stock market will do. OK, it’s true you can’t predict the future with certainty. You do have ideas on what might happen in different combinations of future events (scenarios.) They are investing with you because they think you know more than they know.
Better: “No one can predict the future with certainty, however, here’s what our strategists think are possible outcomes.”

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8. The market took us all by surprise. There was a sudden drop. It was unexpected. You didn’t see this coming. Now you’ve made it sound like the market is random and analysis is useless. You are abdicating responsibility.
Better: “This was unexpected, but in hindsight we can see reasons why it happened. The important consideration is the fundamentals for our investments are still intact.”

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9. I bought it for myself. You feel this is a solid endorsement for an investment. You believe in it enough to invest your own money. Your financial situation is different from the person sitting across from you. You might have a higher tolerance of risk or a longer time horizon. What if you later sold it and forgot to tell them?
Better: “Here’s why I think this investment is a good fit for your portfolio.” Also, “it’s suitable for the following reasons.”

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10. I don’t have time for you right now. You are busy. You picked up the phone. You’ve got too much going on right now. You are short with the caller. It comes across as “You’re unimportant.”
Better: There should be backup. Someone else should answer the phone if you are busy.

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11. (Team member) will be your contact going forward. A complaint from some clients is the head of the team wins the account, then the new client is assigned to a team member perceived to be lower in the hierarchy. They see “bait and switch.”
Better: “It will be faster and easier for you if you give one of our team members the chance to help you. If there’s something really serious you think only I can handle, give me a call. Be aware I might not be able to get back to you immediately.”

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12. (Name) quit. I’m your new advisor now. It’s a reassignment situation. You see the account as a gift. The client might have had a close relationship with the departing advisor. The finality of your statement gets them thinking, “Don’t I have a say?”
Better: “(Name) has left the firm to pursue opportunities elsewhere. We are sorry to see her go. I realize you and (name) worked together for (X) years. My manager has asked me to work with you, so you continue to get uninterrupted service. I’m honored to be asked. I think the first step should be meeting so we can get to know each other.”

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13. I’ll call you back (and you don’t). We’ve all done it. The person covering your phone has said it on your behalf. They don’t get called back. They feel unimportant. Not following through can come across as disorganized to a prospect.
Better: Your word is your bond. Get a list together in real time of these commitments. By the end of the day, return those calls.

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14. You’re too small. It’s a client referral. Maybe a call in. Perhaps you’ve been socially prospecting. They are under your minimum threshold. Beware if they are related to one of your current clients.
Better: “We find we can be of the most value to people with (X) investable assets for the following reasons.” (Notice you didn’t say “no.”)

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15. You’re fired. You are having a disagreement with a client. Thinking this is the worst punishment you can inflict, you tell them they are fired. You are terminating a revenue stream and turning a client into an adversary. The issue between you is still unresolved.
Better: Bite your tongue. Let them get it all out. Ask “What can we do to move forward?” It might be separation after all, but now it’s their idea. Another solution is to privately bring the situation to your manager. They’ve addressed this problem before.

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Words are funny things. You can’t call them back. Things you say can spread by word of mouth. Words can be interpreted differently by two people. Words can get you into court.

Check out the gallery for 15 things you should never say to prospects or clients.

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