They say “please” is passé and “thank you” has had its day, at least when it comes to your business.

I’m not sure what I say, but it might be “Puh-leeze.”

What the heck is wrong with polite? When it comes to business development, plenty, or so says sales expert Tom Batchelder.

Those magic words your mom made you say?

Batchelder insists they waste time and effort—yours and theirs—when they creep into your calls and emails to prospects. Worse, they put you in a “One-Down position” relative to someone you’d like to work with.

“Please take a look at this information.” “Please don’t hesitate to call me.” “Please let me know if you have questions.”

Are you begging for the business, or are you offering them a way to solve a problem they’re eager to address? Ditch the desperation, skip “we appreciate the opportunity to win your business.” And above all, don’t say, “Please.”

And that’s not all. The author of Barking Up a Dead Horse takes aim at “thank you” too. Think about how often we say or write, “Thank you for your time.” What—is their time more valuable than ours? It’s another example of putting ourselves in that dreaded One-Down position. So, no more “thank you for considering us” or “thank you for looking at my proposal.”

It’s not just “please” and “thank you.”

Batchelder points to plenty of places we go wrong in between “please” and “thank you.”

Many of them have to do with being too emotional. “I’d love to talk with you.” “We’d be thrilled to support your company in this effort.” “I’m delighted to have the chance…”

Women, especially, are prone to putting too much emotion into business emails and voicemails. It weakens our message…and people’s perception of us.

And that goes for exclamation points too. It’s business. Not a note to your BFF!!!

Batchelder calls exclamation points unnecessary, overly excited, and often not genuine, especially if you don’t know the person on the receiving end of all that enthusiastic emphasis.

What happens when you assume?

A lot of us have learned the assumptive approach to sales. You assume the person will say yes, and you use language that conveys your conviction. You act as if they’ve already decided you’re the one, all that’s left is to wrap up the details.

Examples? “Let me know when we can talk” assumes the person wants to talk to you.

“I look forward to working with you” assumes we will in fact be working together. “You’ll be happy with this solution” makes assumptions about their decision and their emotional state.

Many experts swear that’s the way to persuade people. Confidently describe a future with them as your client…and they’ll naturally decide to be your client. You lead, they follow.

You may not be surprised to hear that Batchelder is not one of those experts. Instead, he suggests asking questions, giving the person an out, acknowledging their uncertainty.

Here’s why that makes sense. None of us like to be sold to, right? That includes those of us who sell something ourselves. (And you know I think we’re all selling, even if sales isn’t in our job description. We sell our ideas, we sell our proposal, we sell ourselves all day long.)

Because we don’t like being sold to, we put up barriers—fast—the minute we get a whiff of a sales pitch coming our way. The more they push, the more we resist. If they keep pushing, we may shut down completely.

Give them some space.

Makes sense, then, not to push when we’re the ones doing the selling. Reduce resistance by

  • Inviting them to join you in a conversation.
  • Acknowledging they may not know—or care—about you and your company.
  • Asking for their input rather than telling them what they need or how they feel or what they should do next.

Maybe you’ve been told to be strong and confident and, yes, assumptive, in your efforts to grow your business.

Batchelder suggests pulling back, being less forceful, allowing the person to respond naturally and honestly. Yes, their response might be “no.” Better a “no” than endless stonewalling, avoiding your calls and ignoring your emails.

It’s a softer approach to persuasion.

But “soft” doesn’t mean weak. You’re not turning yourself into a doormat here. You’re setting the stage for a business opportunity instead of jamming it down their throat.

Especially if your business card doesn’t have the word “sales” on it…if you’re a professional who has to bring in clients or an entrepreneur looking to grow your company…setting aside the spiel might work well for you.

Or, maybe you’re convinced the path to successful selling goes straight through thanking them and telling them what to do next—with a couple of exclamation points thrown in for good measure.  You can post a comment below and tell us what works for you.