Filler words tend to have a bad rap in the sales profession. Articles, books and seminars in the business world make the case that we should eliminate them. Some of us are convinced that filler words even harm us professionally.

And we have evidence. Research shows that filler words make speakers appear less prepared and more anxious. They are commonly understood signs of poor communication, and pet peeves of professional communicators.

In light of these findings, it’s natural to conclude that salespeople should avoid filler words at all costs. Salespeople communicate – and more importantly, communicate persuasively – for a living. Fewer filler words = better communication = more sales.

But is this assumption legitimate?

In an effort to bring more science to the sales profession, we analyzed nearly half a million B2B sales call recordings with AI to put this assumption to the test.

Let’s look at the data.

The Most Common Filler Words in B2B Sales

First, we compiled the list of the most commonly used filler words among the pool of call recordings. Here’s what we found.

Each percentage is in proportion to the total number of filler words spoken across the sales recordings. In other words, 33% of all filler words spoken were “so,” 19% were “you know,” and so on.

Filler Words and Sales Outcomes

Now for the really interesting findings.

These filler words had no impact on sales outcomes.

That’s right.

First, we analyzed by grouping the salespeople involved into low, mid, and high performers. Do top performing reps use filler words less frequently than mid or low performing reps?

Nope. There were no statistically significant differences in the frequency or types of filler words used among the groups.

Next, we looked at sales outcomes, regardless of who produced those outcomes.

Same thing.

Filler words had no impact on call or deal success.

They did not correlate negatively with win rates, sales cycle rates, or conversion rates from opportunity stages. They seemed to do…pretty much nothing.

There was one significant finding in the data: gender differences.

Women use filler words differently – and 5% more often – than men do.

Women are more likely to use these filler words:
– Great
– Perfect
– Like…

While men use these ones more often:
– Cool
– Sort of
– You know…

An interesting finding, but that’s about it. Women sell differently than men, but that’s not really news.

So Like…What Should We Do About Filler Words?

It seems our crusade against filler words is unproductive. The data indicates that filler words do not impact key sales outcomes.

When it comes to filler words, sales reps and managers may be overthinking it. Filler words are glaringly obvious when you’re critically reviewing a call recording, but in a live conversation most people seem to be fairly blind to them.

What do you think? Is our industry grudge against filler words impractical? Or are there reasons to avoid filler words despite this data? Let us know what you think in the comments below.