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It’s honestly amazing how many people now tack the word “honestly” or the phrase “to be honest” to the beginning or end of their sentences. 

“Honestly, I’m thinking we should go this route … ”

“I don’t that that’ll be much of a problem to be honest … ”

Sounds normal, right? But while it’s nothing more than a harmless colloquialism in casual conversation, the word can wreak havoc in a sales setting.

The reason is deceptively simple. By calling attention to your honesty, you might unintentionally raise your buyer’s suspicion. You say you’re being honest now -- but does that mean you weren’t before? Or maybe you’re using the word honestly precisely because you aren’t being honest. This seemingly innocuous word can put a prospect on edge fast.

“When I hear somebody say [honestly], I can’t help but think if what they’ve been telling me up to now has been a lie,” writes Mark Hunter aka “The Sales Hunter” in this post. “I’ll admit using the word “honestly” can be a way to set up a sentence to give it more punch, but I’m sorry -- it just doesn’t cut it. You have to use different descriptive words that allow the customer to feel what it is you’re saying without giving them any sense to doubt anything you’ve said.”

Criminal investigators even listen for the word “honestly” as a tip-off that their subjects are lying. In the book Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, the authors write, “Verbal phrases that often precede a deceptive denial might be described as pleading phrases, such as ‘But honestly, sir,’ or ‘I understand what you’re saying, but …’” We’ve all seen CSI. You know that the guy uttering these phrases is as red-handed as they come.

So to come across as perfectly honest, you need to drop the word “honest” from your sales speech. Have faith that your buyer is taking what you’re saying at face value, and don’t rely on this verbal crutch to spice up your speech -- it might just trip you up.

Verdict: Not recommended for use.

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Originally published Feb 2, 2015 10:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Trust in Sales