I enjoy a good conversation as much as the next guy or gal. A highly engaging and thoughtful conversation where both sides are equally sharing their ideas, and feelings is something to value. Likewise, I also enjoy the comfort of being with people I care about and not feeling like I have to say a word. I’m comfortable with silence.
Being comfortable with silence is a skill. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, like any skill, silence needs to be practiced in order to be effective. It requires trust, honesty, and perhaps most importantly confidence.
Sales people by nature are talkers. In fact, sales people often have a reputation of being slick talkers. Talk fast enough that you over-power, or blow past the buyer’s objections, tough questions, or key concerns. However, a fast talking sales person is actually communicating the wrong message. Buyers get turned off by fast talkers. They become suspicious. They become guarded in their responses, and many times they tune out, and walk away.
Great sales professionals understand the power of silence. The power that comes with feeling confident in your message, your answers, your position, your knowledge. Knowing when to be silent, versus when to speak, is a critical skill all sales people should develop, assuming they want to improve their win rates.
The buyer asks a question, the sales person responds, and then silence. You’re almost begging the buyer to challenge you. Your silence is a display of your confidence and conviction. It also shows the buyer a level of patience and empathy by giving them time to absorb your response and determine their next step. You’re putting the control in the buyer’s hands. And while some may argue that the sales person should maintain control, I’d argue that by granting the buyer some control, the sales person is actually increasing his/her control of the sales and buying process.
Silence can be the ultimate neutralizer. High stakes negotiators recognize the strategic benefit of using silence. Yet keep in mind, that using silence as a tactic requires a great deal of preparation. You need to understand your company, your product, your position, and your buyer. Drop the ball on any one of those and the value of silence is diminished.
Next time you engage in a sales conversation, force yourself to be silent. Can you do it? Can you sell with silence?