Filler Words – Do They Matter in Sales?



I’m, like kinda obsessed with, um, filler words.

As the owner of a business who employs more than 35 millennial sales reps, how can I not be?

My longtime colleague, Daniel Reef, sent this excellent article on the science behind filler words that you need to read.  It covers:

  • What they really are
  • How to use them strategically (like Obama)
  • How to get rid of them

My friend, John Barrows, wrote this on point article challenging sales reps to stop with the ‘touching base’ and ‘checking ins.’  John is on a crusade.  As a B2B decision maker who is called by a lot of sales reps, hearing a voicemail with “I’m just calling to check in…” is like nails on a chalkboard.

Here’s my list of American English language filler words used frequently by sales reps.  Please comment with others that you hear in this and other languages / dialects:

  • um, ah, uh
  • kinda, kind of
  • sorta, sort of
  • like
  • ya know, you know
  • just
  • cool, cool (the double cool as I call it)
  • I guess
  • I mean
  • gotchya, got ya
  • actually
  • really
  • basically
  • right
  • got it, got it (yes, another double)
  • touch base
  • check in
  • follow up

I personally can’t stand filler words and cringe when I use them in my own sales calls.

At the same time the more I study real sales calls between buyers and sellers, the more uncertain I am that filler words matter as much as sales leaders think they do.  Research has shown that listeners have a negative opinion of speakers who overuse filler words.  But does that mean they won’t buy from them or take a meeting from them?

A lot of great sales reps use filler words all the time.  We had this rep I’ll call Terry who was fantastic.  She made every club trip.  She also had a bad um problem.  In one 5 minute call she said um 49 times.  Did it impact her sales performance?  I’m not sure.

Fact is we don’t have the data to prove how much filler words matter yet (it’s on my bucket list).  With ExecVision we’re going to use artificial intelligence to answer this vexing question once and for all.  Until then let’s debate it.

What do you think?  Do filler words impact outcomes in sales calls?  Or are they simply annoying?

Comment below or join our upcoming Call Camp for a live discussion where we’ll dissect real sales calls to understand what works & what doesn’t.

Written by Steve Richard|ExecVision