In today’s business world we are all in sales even though we may not have “sales” as part of our titles or imprinted on our business cards.
A while back, I came across an article in INC magazine by Eric Holtzclaw that got me to thinking about sales and the sales pitch. In the article entitled “One Word That Kills Your Credibility” Holtzclaw comments that he has watched more salespeople and companies pitch their ideas over the years than he cares to count. And during thousands of interviews with customers about how they use different products and services and respond to marketing messages, he has honed the craft of ferreting out telltale signs of lies and omissions. He goes on to say, “From that experience, I am going to let you in on a little secret about a word you should stop using immediately. It is “actually.”
For the experienced marketer, “actually” is a dead giveaway from an area that at the least needs to be further investigated and may point to a deception.
Let me explain. When you use the word “actually” properly, you are comparing two thoughts and providing clarification. For example: Question: “Did you go to the store for milk?” Answer: “Actually, I stopped at a gas station.
In this example, it is easy to see why someone might use the word. The original question suggested that you went to the store, but you might not think that a gas station is really a store. In your mind, you are comparing and justifying the decision to stop at a gas station rather than a grocery store.
Back to the business setting: Extra words used in a sales presentation are unnecessary.
They subconsciously point listeners to question if there’s more unspoken information. The word “actually” serves as a spoken pause, giving the presenter’s brain time to catch up and decide how to resolve the conflict in their mind between the question asked and reality.
A common example of how this plays out in a sales presentation–Question: “How many customers are using the platform?” Answer: “We actually have over 100 companies.”
The word “actually” isn’t important to the answer.
It’s extra information that makes the listener curious as to why the word was added. An astute prospect and customer will follow up with a request to see a customer list or to get a customer referral.
In a customer interview, the customer may use the word to please the person asking the question: Question: “Do you use this product?” Answer: “Actually, I have.”
To the experienced listener, this answer means, “No, I have never used it” or “I used it once and it didn’t do what I expected or needed.” An appropriate follow-up is to ask for a specific example or time that the function was used.
After reading the article, I asked myself, are there other words or phrases that come to mind as a credibility killer if I was sitting behind the desk listening to a sales pitch?
I didn’t have to think too long. While I thought of several, there was one that stood out for me, however it can be referenced in two ways. The first reference is “trust me” — this reminds me of nothing more than the famous used car sales pitch, “trust me, this car was owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday”. And the other is “to be honest” —here, by having to mention honesty only makes the person sound dishonest and leads one to think that what they have said all along has not been honest.
I am sure you have a few credibility killers of your own that come to mind. What are they?