Discover more from The Leap Advisor
The Power of Silence
Listen with the intent to understand not to reply
In the fast-paced world of sales, there's a common misconception that extroverted personalities make the best salespeople. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert in sales can be a significant advantage, particularly when it comes to active listening, discovery, and negotiations. In this blog post, we'll delve into the art of active listening and how to leverage the power of silence for successful outcomes.
I’m frequently asked about the best approaches to improving sales productivity. From sales training strategies like Sandler, Challenger and MEDDIC I’ve tried to be a true student of the craft and educate myself on how to answer that very question. I've found that the most successful salespeople are those who are genuinely curious about their prospects. They ask questions, listen attentively, and really try to understand the challenges their prospects are facing.
Trying to listen with the intent to understand not to reply is simple but shouldn’t be taken for granted. Curiosity is not just about asking great questions, it's also about having the discipline to silently listen to answers.
If silence is important how do you measure it and get better at it?
Gong is a revenue Intelligence Platform that aims to capture and understand every customer interaction. They did a study on the ideal talk-to-listen ratio across 25,000 calls and found that 43:57 was the ideal duration. Top sellers spend more time listening vs talking.
Every product has different sales cycles and total contract values so it’s not worth being too rigid about the ratio. However, it is important to never monopolize conversations by doing most of the talking. If you don’t want to implement Gong or Chorus to record and analyze your conversations, then take a post-it and make two columns: Listening and Talking.
After every prospect/client meeting ask yourself did you do more listening or talking on that call and put a tally in the column where you did more of one of them. Do this for 4 weeks straight and this small reminder can help you keep this topic top of mind and push you to do more listening.
There is a tendency among salespeople to ask a question and not pause but instead to continue speaking. This is rambling. A few ways to decrease rambling fast:
Slow down when speaking. Many salespeople rush to get all their qualifying questions answered in the first discovery call so they rush through as they speak. Provide value in each call to earn that follow-up conversation where you can continue to qualify a prospect. By slowing down speech, you naturally pause, allowing people room to respond to your questions.
After asking a question, push yourself to intentionally pause for 7 seconds. Have a list of common qualifying questions printed out and at the end of each call put a check mark next to each question where you intentionally paused.
Record and transcribe your conversations. Google transcription or tools like Otter AI make this very easy to accomplish. Open the text after your call and scan where you asked questions. See how many times you speak after asking a question vs waiting for the other side to respond first.
Just by implementing some simple tools and strategies for 4 weeks straight you’ll see a noticeable difference in how you hold conversations. Send yourself calendar reminders for accountability.
Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, and author of the book Never Split the Difference discusses mirroring as a powerful tool that can be used to build rapport and trust with the other person in a negotiation.
Voss defines mirroring as "the simple repetition of one to three words, typically it's the last one to three words of what somebody said. But when you get good at mirroring, you could pick one to three words from anywhere in the conversation."
Chris is not the creator of this term. It was also taught by the old school sales greats like Brian Tracy and Zig Ziggler decades ago. In recent years, mirroring has become a more popular sales technique. This is due in part to the rise of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which is a field of psychology that studies the relationship between language and behavior. NLP practitioners believe that mirroring is an effective way to influence people's behavior.
To be great at mirroring someone you have to be great at being silent.
Here's an example of mirroring from the book Never Split the Difference applied to a sales conversation:
Salesperson: (After presenting the product's features and benefits) So, based on what I've shared with you so far, how do you feel about our solution?
Prospect: I think it looks promising, but I'm still not entirely convinced about the pricing. It's a bit higher than what we were planning to spend.
Salesperson: (Mirroring the last three words) Spending more than you originally planned?
Prospect: Yeah, exactly. Our budget is a bit tight this quarter.
Salesperson: (Mirroring the prospect's language) Tight budget this quarter.
Prospect: Yes, we've got some other expenses coming up, and we need to be mindful of our cash flow.
Salesperson: (Mirroring the prospect's concern) Mindful of cash flow.
Prospect: That's right. So, if we could work something out on the pricing, it might make it easier for us to move forward.
Salesperson: (Mirroring the prospect's desired outcome) Easier to move forward.
In this example, the salesperson is doing a lot less talking than listening and is using mirroring by repeating the last few words or phrases the prospect says. Mirroring provides some clear benefits:
Shows active listening and empathy. By mirroring the prospect's language and using it back, the salesperson establishes a connection and makes the prospect feel heard, which can be crucial in building trust and finding a mutually beneficial solution
Provides a seller time to really think about the deeper follow-up question they’d like to dive into. It's not always easy to come up with deep follow-up questions on the spot and it’s also not great to come with a list of questions and be robotic with your prospects. Mirroring provides that buffer time while continuing to keep the conversation going in a productive manner
Keeps you on the same page with your prospect. It’s much easier to create an action plan if there is less ambiguity at the end of a conversation.
Mirroring isn’t just about repeating the last few words. Pay attention to the tone, speed of conversation, and body language. All of these are tied into mirroring. As a final note, be authentic. Don’t just repeat words, truly listen.
Silence in Negotiation
One of the first things I learned as a salesperson, making countless mistakes, was to never speak after presenting pricing. Allow the prospect time to digest what you’ve just said along with the presentation they’re looking at.
After presenting pricing, under no circumstances should the seller speak before the prospect has responded.
Embracing the Silence
From the book Spin Selling by Neil Rackham:
"I once had a sales call with a prospect who was very interested in our product, but he was concerned about the price. After I presented the price, I paused and waited for him to say something. He didn't say anything for a few minutes, and I started to feel uncomfortable. I thought I had blown the sale.
But then, the prospect spoke up. He said, 'I was expecting the price to be higher.' I smiled and said, 'I'm glad to hear that.' We went on to have a productive conversation, and the prospect eventually bought our product.
If I hadn't paused and let the prospect think about the price, I might have lost the sale. The silence gave him a chance to process the information and to realize that the price was actually a good value."
Silence is power.
Interested in becoming a Leap Advisor? Learn more about the process here.