How Using “Ummm” in Sales Conversations Is Losing You Deals

*Editors Note: Guest post written by Yon Nuta, CEO and Founder of Accuvit. Accuvit offers voice-to-text transcription and analytics for the inside sales industry.

How strong is your sales pitch? If you use too many filler words, the answer is, “not as strong as it could be.”

A recent analysis of our customers’ sales conversations showed nearly 80% of calls used at least one filler word. More than half of those (56%) used a filler word at least three times. That’s a lot of umming.

Are you surprised?

Uh… probably not.

On average, reps used more than four filler words per minute, which wouldn’t be a huge problem if they used keywords just as often. But when we looked at the most popular keyword–“marketing” in this case–we saw that it was only used once every 41 seconds. That means filler words are used three times as often as the most important keyword. Crazy.

We often use filler words in everyday speech when we’re in the process of gathering our thoughts, but using them excessively in a sales call can be dangerous. Why?

  • Filler words signify you’re in trouble and make you sound less confident
  • Filler words disrupt the flow of the conversation and can stop you from hearing what the other person wants to say
  • Filler words are distracting, especially if the other person realizes you’re overusing them

On one end of the spectrum, we saw a 45 minute call that used filler words, wait for it… a grand total of 310 times! (And that’s just words such as “like,” “uh,” and “umm.”) That’s more than three filler words every 30 seconds. Obviously using the filler words in this conversation wasn’t a bad thing, since it lasted for quite a while. (It was a demo.) But how convincing would you sound if your 30 second pitch was filled with umms and uhs? Probably not very.

[Tweet “How convincing would you sound if your 30 second pitch was filled with Umms and Uhs? Not very.”]

So we did the math to find out and were shocked by the results. We compared calls that were 30 seconds or less to calls that were 120 seconds or more. Then we looked at the first 30 seconds of each call (so the entirety of the short call and the first 30 seconds of the longer call.) Do you see where this is going? Essentially, we wanted to see whether filler words at the beginning of calls had an impact on call length, and if so, what that impact was.

We did, in fact, find a huge difference in filler word use between long and short calls. There was 20% less use of filler words in the first 30 seconds on calls that ended up lasting longer than two minutes. When we looked at specific filler words like “umm” and “like,” the effect was even more pronounced. There was 30% less use of these words in longer calls than shorter calls.

So what’s the takeaway? Use less filler words, have longer calls. Have longer calls, close more deals. If there was ever a time to monitor your speech and get rid of filler words, this is it!

Lucky for you, once you’re aware of filler words, there are easy ways to stop yourself from using them in excess. You can take the following steps to decrease the frequency of filler words in your conversations:

  1. Listen. Make a recording of a conversation and give yourself a tick mark for every filler word used. If you notice more than one a minute, you have a problem. (You can also check out a transcript of any sales call)
  2. Breathe. Remove your hands from your pockets, relax your shoulders, and take a deep breath. Doing all this should help you relax when you have a tough question.
  3. Pause. It’s okay to think before answering a question as it gives you time to formulate a good answer. Silence isn’t bad in moderation.
  4. Slow down. Let your mouth catch up to your brain. Once it does, you’ll use less filler words since you’ll be more sure of what you’re saying next.
  5. Keep sentences short. You’ll be less likely to use “umm” and “uh” if you keep your lines focused.
  6. Prepare. Practicing your pitch and being confident in handling objections is the best way to decrease filler words in conversations.
  7. Tell a story. The more engaging your content, the less likely the listener hears filler words. Plus, the better you become at telling a story, the more likely you’ll close the deal.

With a little bit of practice, you can learn to decrease the amount of filler words you use. After all, wouldn’t it be great to close more deals simply by getting rid of umm?


Yon is passionate about leading innovative technology and products to change the way consumers interact with their life and community. He’s always looking to learn, be challenged, and infusing his passion into industry leading innovation.

Join Us Today

Insider access to the GTM network and the best minds in tech.

Join Us Today

Insider access to the GTM network and the best minds in tech.

Trending Now

You may also like...