It was a dingy little gray office in a rural part of Appalachia. The owner of the fuel oil company looked at my proposal. And looked at it. And looked at it some more. I was living in North Carolina selling long distance in my mid-twenties and this old man who was more than twice my age scared me with his poignant silence.
I made a common mistake that most junior sales people make. I didnít shut my trap once I gave him the proposal. I was so nervous that the only thing which quelled my anxiety was the sound of my own voice which kept droning on and on and on like an annoying empty gong. It was almost as if the silence begged to be broken by my voice and I couldnít help myself. "And look how much we can save you on that 800 line," I said. No answer. Long pause. "And the calling cards, too. Itís all there. Look at that, sir. See? See? Thatís big savings." No answer. Long pause. "Look at that. And the extra lines get the discount also. Thatís even more savings, sir." Long pause. Long pause. Long pause. More nervousness. "Did I tell you that our company was founded in . . ."
All of a sudden this quiet man finally said something, and itís something that Iíll never forget. "Boy," he said in a thick mountainy drawl, interrupting me right smack in the middle of my enthusiastic babbling. "I done bought from ya ten minutes Ďgo. But ya just tawked yersef outta it. You kin go now."
He bought from me ten minutes ago. I talked myself out of it. I could go now. But . . . itís not . . . fair, I thought to myself. No, it wasnít fair, but it was a great lesson on the power of silence. Sometimes silence can be a powerful force, powerful enough to close the deal for you. Powerful enough to even tear it apart after it already closed.
When you are on your next sales call or face-to-face prospective client visit, pay attention to how silence is used in the meeting:
After you present your formal proposal to your client, let them look at it. Let them be the ones to say something first. There is an old rule of thumb in the world of selling and negotiating that says whoever talks first loses. Let them bring up the questions and issues after you present it to them. If they donít say anything, then just let them mull it over. Theyíll ask you questions when they are ready. Donít appear too anxious to be the first one to speak.
Use silence to convey a point. When you are talking to someone and want to emphasize a key point, pause right before it. Say it like this: "Bob, this is why I think you need to consider our product. (pause, pause, pause). Itís because ofÖ" The longer pause gets their attention.
When you are asked a question, you donít need give the first answer that pops in your head. Give them the right answer. And if you need more time to answer their question, say, "Thatís a good question, Bob. Let me think about that for a second." More than anything, you will be considered a true professional who is giving serious thought to solving their problems.
Anytime you are in a negotiation, when someone makes an offer to you, pause before you give a response. It makes you seem more cautious and less eager. When it comes to making a concession, remember that the way you offer the concession is just as important as the concession you make. Pause before you concede as if you are reluctant to give something up. This shows the other party that you value your product or service and it increases the likelihood of you negotiating a better deal.
During your next meeting with a prospect, pay attention to how this tool of silence can be used, and how effective it is in your ability to influence others. And, if anything, at least itíll keep you from babbling your way out of a closed sale.
Copyright © 2004 Scott Love Scott Love increases the billings of recruiters and expands the margins of search firms through his coaching, consulting, in-house training, and keynote presentations. To have him help your recruiters bill more than they ever thought possible, call him at 828-225-7700. His website, www.recruitingmastery.com, has become one of the largest free training sites for the search industry with over 120 articles, tools, and downloads.