5 Phrases That Destroy Business Relationships



When it comes to hiring a professional to fulfill a need for you, naturally we want to hire someone who we feel confident will meet both our needs and our budget. However, in our effort to communicate this, some common phrases have crept into our language that are less than favorable – and sometimes downright insulting.

These are phrases you have likely heard and maybe you’ve even used them on occasion. Things like, “I’m looking for a reasonably priced ______.” Or, “I need someone who can help with ______ that won’t cost me an arm and a leg.” It’s important we pause for a moment to think about what these types of phrases are really communicating. How do they make someone feel about working with you? You have a brand to protect as well – whether personally or professionally. Let’s explore what some of these common phrases are and how they sound to the person on the other side of the table.

 1. “reasonably priced” or “affordable”

Replace with: “within my budget”

Both of these phrases are very subjective. What defines reasonably priced or affordable is dependent upon your budget and personal opinion. You don’t have to look far to find people who are very frugal and others who have no reservations about dropping a lot more money for the same service. When you approach a business asking for “reasonably priced” or “affordable” services, the bush you’re really beating around is whatever budget you have set in your mind. Why not be honest and direct? Tell them your price range and allow this to lead the conversation about whether they are the right fit for your needs.

 2. “gets the job done right”

Replace with: “meets my expectations”

Again, this comes across as negative and offensive because it’s subjective to your opinion of what it means to get the job done right. Right to you may be wrong or unnecessary to someone else. You’re also insinuating that there are professionals who hang their hat on getting the job done “wrong.” I don’t know many people who are in business, at least for long, with the goal of producing consistently poor work.

By leading a business conversation with this type of language, you’re communicating that you might have impossible standards that are ever-changing based on your mood. What you’re really trying to communicate is that you have certain expectations and you want them to be met. That’s completely reasonable! Communicate your expectations early and often in the conversation and let this drive whether the potential business or vendor is a good fit.

 3. “willing to put in the work”

Replace with: “is responsive to my needs”

Can you see a pattern here? Again, this sets a negative tone from the start. Any respectable business is willing to put in the work to complete a job to the satisfaction of its customers. This sets an ambiguous and subjective standard that should make any business owner wary of what your expectations are. It’s also not fair to think you can hire someone to ride them into the ground with high demands that are above and beyond the original scope of the job. Again, it comes back to being direct and honest from the start. Instead, communicate that it’s important to you that a business is responsive to your needs. And then list exactly what those needs are. This allows your potential hire to understand and accept these terms before agreeing to work together. If they accept, it’s then fair to hold them to such standards – because they were communicated at the beginning.

 4. “won’t cost an arm and a leg”

Replace with: “that I can afford”

I can’t say I’ve run into a single business that accepts limbs as forms of payment. So the good news is no job should literally cost you an arm and a leg. But that’s not what someone is really trying to say with this comment, is it? Again, this is an example of skirting the real conversation that you may be looking for a steep discount on price. Refer to point #1 above. Just be open and honest about your budget. Don’t try to lowball a job, especially one for which you’re demanding top-tier service. Mean what you say and say what you mean when it comes to your budget. Life is a whole lot easier this way, I promise.

 5. “overpriced”

Replace with: “not aligned with my budget and expectations”

And finally, what you may consider “overpriced” may be a steal to someone else. Let’s leave subjective phrases like this out of business conversations, especially ones that involve the pricing of someone’s services. I can charge two different clients the same price for the same services and each will have a very different reason as to whether they feel this is a steal of a deal or crazy overpriced. You can guess which customer is more likely to treat me well, pay bills on time, and value my expertise. When you’re looking to hire a business, refrain from saying things like, “I need someone to ____, but who isn’t overpriced.” This means different things to different people. Instead, offer a price range. If you believe your budget is fair, there should be no shame in being open with what you’re willing to pay. In fact, this openness and honesty will do well to attract the types of businesses with whom you want to align!

The next time you’re looking to hire a business or professional to provide you with a service, be sure you consider how you present the opportunity. Does it feel welcoming, appreciative, and collaborative? Or does it put someone on the defense right from the start? I have seen this scenario play out both ways for clients – and even myself over the years. And I can assure you which approach produces the better results time and time again. You guessed it – the positive, open-minded approach! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you build relationships with other businesses and professionals who feel valued, fairly compensated, and a part of the team.

What phrase is your personal pet peeve? Do you have another one that should be added to the list? Comment below to share your thoughts!