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The best sales people know when to shut up

The best sales people know when to shut upclosing sales by knowing when to be quiet.
Have you ever been in conversation with someone, there is a lull, no one speaks and you have the strongest urge to fill that silence with something, anything? We human beings don’t like uncomfortable silences and it is a natural reaction to try and fill this void with words or noise of some sort.

Have you noticed the way that time stretches in moments like this? A few seconds can feel like forever. It makes us feel uneasy and we don’t like it. 

Sometimes we take this to extremes. Who hasn’t chattered nervously about the most inane things because we feel we should? And it can be even tougher when we are in front of a customer. I was talking with someone at a business exhibition a few weeks ago and he was telling me how frustrated he was that he could think of several occasions where he had won the deal and then gone and talked himself out of it again! I tried to reassure him that we have all done that from time to time, but I could really feel his annoyance at himself – after all, it can be jolly hard to get a customer to say ‘yes’ in the first place, so why would anyone sabotage the very thing that we want, by talking them out of a done deal? 

Well part of it is this natural human desire to fill any silent gaps and, if we are in a slightly stressful or unfamiliar situation (like trying to persuade someone to use our goods or services) then it can be worse. In fact, in my work as a sales trainer, where I deal primarily with small businesses and entrepreneurs I see this a lot, because many of them are not natural salespeople, rather they have had to learn how to be, or risk going out of business pretty fast.

Interestingly, if you were to ask people what qualities they believe you need in selling, then most people would probably say ‘ability to talk a lot’. Whilst it is important to be able to get your message across, there are many other important skills a good salesperson will need and understanding when to ask the right questions is one of them. A good salesperson will also know that, once they have asked the question, they need to be quiet and listen carefully to the answer.

So whether you are just trying to find out about the prospect’s business, or whether you have just asked the important closing question (you know, the one that goes ‘do you want to place an order?’) you must resist the urge to speak, you must hold your nerve and you must keep quiet. The big scary silence is not as big as it feels. And here is the great thing…..because you are not speaking, it puts the onus on the prospect to respond and the chances are, as they do not feel as intimidated as you, it feels quite natural for them to answer. In fact, one rather good side effect of this strategy is that they will probably think you are a really good listener and the opposite of ‘pushy’. Who hasn’t been absolutely bombarded by some dreadful salesperson who seems to think that if they talk ‘at’ you for long enough, you will eventually surrender and buy from them? Real life just isn’t like that. Customers value authenticity and what could be more authentic than really listening to them.

So next time you are at the point where you are going to ask for the order, remember:

Ask the question.

Then.

Shut up!

That’s it really. Hold your nerve and try. The very best of luck to you!

 

Janet is based in Enfield, north London and trains small businesses and entrepreneurs how to sell more. She has recently reached the final of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management’s national awards (BESMA 2016) in the category of Sales Trainer of the Year.

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