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.
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.”
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SOURCE: TIME / Inc.