Actually: A Word to Avoid

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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?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeb Brooks
Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President 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 sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book "Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call" and writes for The Brooks Group's popular Sales Blog.

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