Contract or Agreement? Use the Right Terminology to Close Deals

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

When you make a sales presentation, you need to connect with your customer and help them conjure up a positive image of the sales process if you want them to purchase a vehicle from you.

This is usually achieved through the words you use to build a mental picture of the lifestyle choice the customer is making, but what might not be as obvious are the words that you should avoid.

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Certain words are part of the traditional sales vocabulary yet what many salespeople fail to realize is that these words have negative connotations for many people.

Particular words can conjure up different images and emotions for people. These associations can be both positive or negative and you need to learn how to convey the correct message to your customer through the use of appropriate sales terminology.

You might be the best salesperson in the world, but you are not a mind reader and you cannot predict which words will have a negative effect on a potential customer and maybe end a deal before you have even finished your sales presentation.

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Sales terminology that you don’t think twice about using might have a hidden meaning or negative connotation for your customer due to past experiences. There is no way to predict which terms will create negative images in a customer’s mind, but if you are aware of the potential pitfalls, you can avoid them. 

Traditional business terminology can evoke negative images

Most salespeople are well versed in traditional sales terminology, these are terms that they use daily and hear around the dealership all the time. Words like sell, price, contract, deposit, monthly payments. These are all a natural part of sales talk, but this is not necessarily the best language to use when speaking to your customers or trying to close a deal.

Contract or Agreement?

Unfortunately, there are a number of terms in the sales industry that have developed a negative image over time. For example, one of the most commonly used words when selling a vehicle is "contract."


What mental image does the word “contract” conjure up for the average customer? Not a very good one. This is a legal term and for most of us, it evokes a negative image. We think of a long, complicated document, peppered with legalese that only a lawyer can interpret, and bulked up with pages of fine print that are hard to read, let alone understand.

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When the salesperson says the word "contract" most of us see a thick document that will lock us into a deal that requires legal action and expensive lawyer’s fees to get out of. The very word makes you think twice about taking the next step in the buying process. Yes, you are entering into a legally binding agreement, but it does not have to be a frightening experience.

Replacing the word “contract” with“agreement” immediately conjures up a far friendlier image. And as a salesperson you are trying to reach an agreement with your customer that is in both your interests and the word conveys that message in a far more positive way than "contract."

Another example is the word “paperwork”. This is a tricky one because for some people it has no negative connotations and it certainly is not a threating word in the same way as "contract."

But paperwork brings to mind hours of time wasted filling in pages and pages of information that no one is ever going to refer to again unless there is a problem. So once again, the word “agreement” is the safer option. “Let’s just fill in a few details on this agreement”, sounds a lot less time consuming than “let's get on with the paperwork”.

Facilitate deals

You might be in the sales business, but words like “sell” and “sold” should be avoided when talking to customers. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

No one likes to think they’ve been selling something, it sounds as though they didn’t have a choice in the matter or that they were persuaded to buy something that they didn’t necessarily want. Instead of saying, “I sold two of these models to customers yesterday”, rather say, “I helped two customers acquire these models yesterday”.


That way the customer feels like you facilitated or played a role in getting them a good deal. When you are tempted to use the word sold, just think about the image conjured up by the expression, “sold a bill of goods,” which literally means to be swindled or taken unfair advantage of. It doesn’t get more negative than that in the sales industry. 

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Price or investment?

Investment is another buzz word that is being applied more and more in the sales industry because of its positive associations. Everyone is looking for a good investment these days. But when could you use this term in the automotive sales business? “Investment” can be used when talking about price and payments since neither of these words conjures up positive images.

Deposit or initial investment?

As soon as you start talking about the price or cost of a vehicle most people get a mental image of parting with their hard-earned money. But when people hear the term investment, they feel far more positive about spending their cash. For example, instead of price you could say “total investment”, in place of deposit rather use “initial investment” and substitute “monthly investment” for “monthly payment”. If the investment is not an appropriate term, then try using amount instead, this is still more positive than price or cost. 

Never ask a customer to sign a contract

When you are about to close a deal, you usually ask your customer to sign the contract. Don’t do that again. The word sign, like the word contract, evokes an image of a legal document and most of us have been told to never sign anything without first studying it thoroughly and reading the fine print. You should be asking your client to “authorize or approve the agreement”, they will feel far more comfortable with that terminology. 

There are a few other words that you can substitute with more positive terms. These include using “areas of concern” rather than “objections” and “more economical” in place of “cheaper” or “savings” instead of “discount” and lastly, don’t offer you, customers, a good deal, offer them a great opportunity. 

One can argue that these are all just words and changing the words doesn’t change the facts, yet words matter.

And reframing the conversation by using words with positive connotations will make you a better salesperson. So do yourself a favor and eliminate the negative terminology from your sales vocabulary and you will soon see the difference it makes to your business.