Actually: A Word to Avoid

In the past, we’ve written about our disdain for the word “Pitch” — who would want anything hurled at them? Sales is about listening, not about telling.

There’s another word that’s earned my ire. It’s the word “actually.”

Before I tell you why, you might be thinking something along the lines of

“C’mon, words aren’t that important. A single word won’t make that much of a difference in my daily interactions.”

Well, I’ll go ahead and disagree with you. Here’s why:

When someone uses the word “Actually,” they’re actually correcting someone else. And, in the world of sales and sales management, that’s usually not well-received. If you’re a salesperson, your customers and prospects don’t want you to blatantly correct them. And, if you’re a sales manager, overtly correcting your sales team can upset them quicker than a well aimed baseball.

There’s a cartoon in our office that illustrates the point.

Raising another question: Is the customer always right?

Had the salesperson responded with “Actually, that’s a baseball,” there’s a pretty good chance the prospect’s enthusiasm would have taken a beating.

Instead, she’s much better off asking clarification questions to help the prospect arrive at his own conclusion and telling her exactly what he wants. Indeed, that’s probably a better move than her chosen response, “Coming right up!”

In Management 101, you’re taught not to link two thoughts with the conjunction “but” because it negates whatever went in front of it:

“You’ve got a great personality, but you’re uglier than a rat.”

“Actually” does the same thing to someone else. Avoid it.

Don’t correct, seek to understand.

What other words do you try to avoid?

About Jeb Brooks

Jeb Brooks is President & CEO of the The Brooks Group, one of the world’s Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He is a sought-after commentator on topics related to sales, sales management, and adult learning, having appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Money, Fortune, and CNN. Jeb is the author of four books and numerous articles.

  • http://blog.aceofsales.com Caelan Huntress

    “To tell you the truth’ is something I never say, because it usually means whats coming next is (at best) in the grey area.

  • http://douglasstewart.org Douglas

    Caelan,

    Great point. When you have to tell someone that you are telling the truth, your probably not.

  • http://www.peigenesis.com Rich Abbey

    To tell you the truth, this is actually very sound advise.

  • Robert

    It is all about context & usage. “Actually” can be a a neutral, effective tool for illustrating an error or misconception if the original supposition was made by a third party. “XYZ believed they were maximizing profits with that program. With no pre-paid fee, our program actually paid more, despite the higher rate.”

  • Gary Kleiner

    This should be added to the list of other words and phrases to avoid which also includes: “honestly”, “To be honest”, “Between you and I”, etc…