Being on either end of a sales call can be tricky. The aim is to either engage with potential customers and sell, or for a buyer, get the transparency needed and end with the best bang-for-the-buck. One of the most effective strategies adopts the “simple” art of not talking. It may sound easy, but the drive to make conversation is deeply embedded in our culture. Filling space, or finding it awkward to rest in open space, can push us further from our goal. There are a few simple ways you can remember to avoid falling into conversational land mines that work against your best interests.
Selling the Sale
The first example of this mistake is described by my group of friends as “selling the sale”. One of us will try to convince the other to take part in an activity. Say, you want to convince your friends to go on a ski trip. On the call you get through the first couple reasons you’ve prepared to convince them. Your friends unexpectedly agree. But, you are so excited to present the rest of your “great reasons” that you continue on. Even after they have agreed, you continue pitching the idea. In that moment you may hear my group call you out: “Hey man, I said yes. Don’t sell the sale”. Why do my friends call this moment out? Well, once a person says “yes” they are “in”, anything else out of your mouth can only work against you. You have gone from summiting a mountain of agreement to barreling down a hill filled with land mines. In short, once an agreement is reach – Don’t sell the sale and create opportunity to lose the ground you’ve gained. Don’t forget that your goal is to convince them, not show them how great of a sales pitch you can make. In other words, don’t sell the sale, sell the product.
Silence is Powerful
Another advantage of creating space in a conversation is humans have a bias to assume silence means “disagreement.” It means no such thing. For example, I was once on a call with a vendor. The sales rep ended their pitch and gave me their price. I said nothing. Honestly, I had no idea if it was expensive or not. Moments later I heard “…but we can do cheaper if that’s too high.”
I have seen this uncomfortable silence change rates, contracts, and features with not so much as a whisper.
By allowing statements to sit – and breath – you allow the other person to find time to air out what is running through their mind, be it doubt, logic, or ethics. At the end of their thought process they may realize their asking price is too high, for example, or their proposed agreement is too strict as their conscience felt icky once the words left their mouth and they wish they could take it back. This approach can sound like a silly game, but it is not. It is simply allowing non-verbal communication to fast-forward any snake oil quips or rehearsed phrases. It allows the party to turn their asks into a discussion. Best of all, it required very little added effort from you.
Finally, while I haven’t researched it, I have found in practice that giving a person space to speak creates a sense of comfort. They remember the experience having went well.
Whether it be by building rapport, establishing a connection, and creating a sense of trust and collaboration, you can make your goals on a call much more achievable by practicing the art of silence. The next time you are on a call, try to allow for longer gaps of silence and see the difference it can make.