“Just Because” — Credibility, Choose Your Words Carefully, by Marc Petock

MarcPetock “Just Because” — by Marc Petock Vice President Marketing, Lynxspring. In today’s business world and especially in our industry, we are all in sales even though we may not have “sales” as part of our titles or imprinted on our business cards. I recently came across an article in INC magazine by Eric Holtzclaw that got me to thinking about sales and the sales pitch. The article entitled “One Word That Kills Your Credibility” reads as follows:

“I have watched more salespeople and companies pitch their ideas over the years than I care to count. And during thousands of interviews with consumers about how they use different products and services and respond to marketing messages, I have honed the craft of ferreting out telltale signs of lies and omissions.

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 listener, “actually” is a dead giveaway of an area that at the least needs to be further investigated, and may point at 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 or investor pitch 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 or investor pitch: 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 investor or 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 as a way to please the person asking the question: Question: “Do you use this product?” Answer: “Actually, I have.”

To the experienced listener, this answer actually (get it?) 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.

Perfecting your pitch requires attention to what you say and removing anything that distracts them from your primary message.  As a listener, keying in on the word “actually” can clue you in to the subconscious and give you a competitive edge”.

After reading the article, I asked myself, what is another word or phrase that comes 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, 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 honest 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? Share them with ControlTrends.


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