Nature abhors a vacuum, or so I was taught in my high school Chemistry classes.
If you were thrown out of a space lock – like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the very entertaining but scientifically ridiculous last scenes of Total Recall – your blood would boil, your pulse would race and your eyes would pop.
That’s how a lot of sales people feel when there’s a vacuum in a conversation. Unlike Simon and Garfunkel they don’t like of the sound of silence – and they rush to fill it like air rushing into a vacuum.
This is usually a gargantuan mistake.
As I’m already demonstrating my advanced age with the cultural references from the 60s and 70s I might as well go the whole hog and recall a sales adage from that time – you have two ears and only one mouth and you should use them in that proportion. It may be hackneyed but it’s true.
If you’re in sales, silence is your friend. You need to embrace it, love it, nurture it and above all be comfortable with it. Because you aren’t the only one who feels the need to fill the vacuum of silence. Your prospects will also rush to fill it – if you give them the chance.
And that’s what you want. Your success as a salesperson depends much more on your ability to listen than it does on your ability to talk. He (or she) who listens, waits and then asks questions learns more, builds more rapport and controls the direction of the conversation.
Train yourself to become comfortable with silence. Once you’ve asked a question (and as a good salesperson you always ask intelligent questions, don’t you?) give the other person a chance to answer it.
If they take their time, don’t rush in to answer your own question or move to another one. Just wait. If you start to feel uncomfortable use the time to observe things – the prospect’s body language or how they’re processing your question. Count to ten if you have to.
When they do answer, pay attention. Make sure you fully understand what they’re saying and ask them to repeat it if you aren’t sure. Don’t be afraid to look stupid, they will appreciate your determination to get it right. People are almost always happy to talk about themselves and their issues if you just give them the chance.
Sales is all about understanding the issue from the perspective of your potential customer. Listening, paying attention and above all not being afraid of silence are all critical attributes you need in order to sell more.
Slow down your conversation, prick up your ears and you’ll speed up your sales.
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Steve Hall is a sales consultant with 25 years experience in B2B sales. He has sold more than $100 million in his career and has owned three small B2C businesses with his wife Susan. He is a member of Sales Masterminds Australasia and regular contributor to BRW and LinkedIn Pulse.
To significantly increase your B2B sales with no risk contact Steve via LinkedIn