Remember that sales conversation with a prospect with highly animated and engaged conversation, and then the room fell silent for several awkward minutes. For many eager salespeople, this silence is both deafening and extremely uncomfortable. The natural tendency of a high-pressure sales person is to persuade, cajole and even coerce the prospects to a desired point of view. There’s no haggling or debating with total silence. If you break this silent moment in the sales process you may be unaware of the important process under way – and it is called thinking.
Do not underestimate the importance of this moment of contemplation by the prospect. Many sales deals have been lost by an anxious salesperson pushing for a close. Meanwhile, the prospect has been thinking about ways to make it work, about specific objections that must be overcome, or about how to sell the benefits of the solution to his or her management. Interrupting this thought process to force the prospect to listen to whatever the salesperson says next usually breaks the deal.
This is not purely a challenge to sales people. Many people in all circumstances listen to a conversation to find the gaps or pauses, instead of hearing the actual content of the message. The small gap in conversation creates an opening to make a point, continue a string of conversation, or redouble persuasive arguments. Some are expert at appearing to be good listeners with a timely nod of the head, feedback grunts and other gestures that help to keep the speaker engaged. All the while, the listener’s brain is engaged in formulating their next paragraph with no regard to understanding the speaker.
The sales game is about figuring out the specific needs and goals of the prospect and configuring the best possible solution. In this game, your prospect wins the best solution, you win the business and your competitors become the losers.
Sometimes the prospect will express frustration with the current state in a highly emotional manner. Reacting to this emotion with equivalent emotion only intensifies the passion, which distracts you from rational thought and derails the conversation. As the prospect vents, listen through the emotion for specific issues and facts to address later. After acknowledging the frustration, the best way to continue the conversation is to ask a few clarifying questions, calmly. This helps to convince the prospect that you are listening to their issues and interested in providing solutions.
Wait a second or two before replying or inserting yourself into the conversation to help you compose a better response. You may just prompt the prospect to add a bit of highly relevant and useful information. Just as sales people struggle with an awkward pause, an interested prospect may also find that silence challenging. Occasionally, this added tidbit of information reveals very different aspects to the prospect’s situation that were not discussed previously. This is critical because the game is to provide the best solution for the needs you discover. Closing the sale may require nothing more than taking the time to listen instead of spewing out a script to overpower the prospect’s brain.