As anyone who knows me well knows, I’m inclined to drop an f-bomb from time to time.  I guess I can if I want to, I own the company.  Yeah, it probably reflects poorly on me and my business, and my mom really hates it, and we have one employee who it makes truly uncomfortable.  I’ve made a commitment to use less profanity, and I’ve asked those around me to hold me accountable.  My five year old is pretty good at this, and what qualifies as a swear word when you’re five includes way more words than just the “F” word. I’m hearing a lot of stern, disapproving “Mom! That’s a bad word!” 

However, my sailor mouth isn’t the topic of this post.   There is a four-letter-word that doesn’t do you any favors, and a few other words that are probably hindering your ability to have better conversations on the phone and get more appointments.  The one that’s most top of mind for me is the word “just”.  I hate this word.  I cringe when my team uses it.  Many times, I have written it on sticky notes with big red “x” marks over-top of it and stuck it to my team’s computer screens.

“I just want to speak to the person who chooses new IT vendors.”

“I’m just calling to introduce myself.”

“I just want to take a few minutes of your time.”

“Please just tell him that I’m calling for our scheduled appointment…”

“Do you just have five minutes…”

“I just want to compare your current solution with…”

This is an unnecessary word.  It makes the user sound like they are begging, supplicant, and “less than” the person they are trying to engage.  It’s a filler word, and it’s not required to deliver your message or make your point.  You can take the word “just” out of every sentence above, and the meaning of the sentence stays exactly the same.  The sentence becomes a far more confident statement when you stop using the word “just”.

“I want to speak to the person responsible for choosing new IT vendors.”

“I’m calling to introduce myself.”

“I’d like to take a few minutes of your time.”

“Please tell him I’m holding for our scheduled appointment.”

“Is now a good time to speak for five minutes?”

“I’d like to compare your current solution with..”

Speaking concisely and confidently when you are prospecting will help.  Using filler words dilute your message.  If the word doesn’t need to be in the sentence, remove it.

Other major offenders?


Actually is a contrary word.  It says “you’re wrong”.   You know how you don’t win business?  By telling people they are wrong.  People will come to the conclusion that they’re wrong without you pointing it out to them.

For example:

“We use XYZ for our antivirus”

“Actually, XYZ isn’t an antivirus solution, it…”

What you’re saying here is “hey dummy, do you know anything at all about technology?”

Instead of using “actually”, especially when someone is engaging in a conversation with you, try asking them questions about what they use the solution for instead of trying to school them on why they’re wrong.

“Is this a sales call?”

“Actually, I’m calling to introduce our company.”

Actually is a garbage word.   Get rid of it.

(And yes, it’s a sales call.  It’s always a sales call.  That’s why you’re calling.  You’re not “just” calling or “actually” calling to do anything but try and sell something to someone.  It’s a sales call.)

As a reminder, filler words are not the same as “crutch” words.  Words like “um”, and “uh” are more often nervous reactions, and as you get better at calling you’ll notice you use them less often.

Take a look at your sales scripts right now – how many words are in there that truly add no value to the messaging?  One of the things I do when reviewing client scripts or marketing materials is take a black sharpie and get rid of any word that isn’t required to make a point or ask a question effectively.  Remember, you’re not having a chat with your friend at a pub, you’re not writing your weekly blog posts,  you’re fighting for valuable executive bandwidth. The faster and more confidently you can make your point, the more likely it is that you will have the opportunity to deliver your entire sales pitch.

If you’re not sure what words you’re using as filler, start recording your calls and auditing them. You’ll be surprised how often some words come up.  As you identify them, review the statements you’re using and see how they sound when you remove the filler word.  If the context of the sentence doesn’t change, the word goes.  Fewer words, faster engagement, more conversations, more appointments.