As a sales trainer and coach, I’m often brought in by businesses to help sales and non-sales people improve their telephone manner, sales pitch and business fit presentations. One of the most common problems I see when selling a product or service is inserting innocent-seeming filler words into conversations.

A filler word is an apparently meaningless word, phrase, or sound that marks a pause or hesitation in speech. Also, known as a ‘pause filler’ or ‘hesitation form’. Using a filler word here and there isn’t wrong, but it’s their repetitive use that really kills a salesperson’s credibility.

Here are the most common filler words and phrases I’ve encountered during my career:

  • “Kind of”, “Sort of”, and “Kinda” – These phrases take the conviction right out of an elevator pitch. For example, “So, what we sort of do is offer a kind of bespoke solution.” Your business shouldn’t sell a product or service that “kind of” does something – either it “does” or “doesn’t”. Make sure your delivery is clear, relevant, concise and actioned.
  • “Obviously” – This is used over and over in work and everyday life. If I’m a salesperson talking to you for the first time and explaining a product or solution you know nothing about, then it’s certainly not obvious.
  • “You know” – This goes hand-in-hand with “obviously”. You’re implying that the person already understands what you’re talking about. durhamlane sales Mantra No.7 is ‘Estimate then validate, never assume’, so never assume what that person knows or doesn’t know.
  • “The reason for my call” (repeated) – A phrase that I encounter when telephone coaching, and it’s used by salespeople to keep track of where they are or to restart their pitch over. If you have to keep telling them the reason for your call then you haven’t explained it properly the first time.
  • “Erm” – Essentially, this is you thinking out loud and vocalising until you work out what to say next. Using silence at these moments is powerful as it gives you time to think about your response and keeps you firmly in control of the conversation.
  • “Basically” (repeated) – Again, this implies that the prospect should already know this but is also the salesperson simplifying their message which should already be simple and clear.

Such meaningless phrases distract the listener from focusing solely on the particular message you want to get across. In the world of business, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

As customer-facing professionals, we need to be more mindful of how we’re perceived and understand how we can build rapport to become the best version of ourselves and the best representatives of the company we work for. Painting a vision, outlining value propositions and delivering a compelling message can all be done through the power of speech, so it’s extremely important we don’t dilute it with filler words.

So, how do you go about removing filler words? Easy. I want you and your team to go away and identify then discuss your most common filler words, and have some fun with trying to eliminate them.

The more you try to take them out, the easier the transition will be.

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