1 Word That Kills Your Credibility
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This one word in a presentation is a dead giveaway that something isn't as it appears.

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.

For example:

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."

To the experienced listener, this answer actually (get it?) means, "No, I have never used it" or "I used it once and it didn't do what I expected or needed."  An appropriate follow-up is to ask for a specific example or time that the function was used.

Perfecting your pitch requires attention to what you say and removing anything that distracts them from your primary message.  As a listener, keying in on the word "actually" can clue you in to the subconscious and give you a competitive edge.

By Eric Holtzclaw
Eric V. Holtzclaw is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the "whys" of business--why customers buy, why teams work, and the all-important "entrepreneurial why." He is the author of "Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior" and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes.
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