As sales professionals, one of the hardest skills for us to learn is LISTENING.
Our managers and mentors teach us hundreds of things: how to cold call, how to elevator pitch, how to prospect, how to qualify, how to close and so on. Rarely, though, are we ever taught how to actually listen to prospects.
Shutting up and listening to my prospects was the single most important lesson I’ve learned in sales, and I thank sales trainer, Jeff Hoffman, for imparting this wisdom on me. Jeff taught me to not take on other peoples’ insecurities and to revel in uncomfortable silences.
Dealing With Silence
We as sales professionals have this instinctual need to fill gaps in conversation with more information. We think it’s a bad thing if there is silence on the other end of the phone like we are going to lose the deal if we don’t immediately blurt out something valuable (when often it is the exact opposite that comes out of our mouths.) Even worse is when we talk over a prospect because we feel like the point we are about to make is more important than whatever they are going to say.
It was an incredible release when I finally learned to accept and welcome silence. What we don’t realize is that the prospects on the other end of the phone are often feeling the same level of discomfort that we are feeling and are also compelled to fill the silence with information.
The big difference is that when WE talk first, the silence is filled with information we already know. When a PROSPECT talks first, they fill the silence with information that could be very valuable to us.
Benefits of Listening
I have tried this hundreds of times and on every single occasion it has produced a beneficial outcome. Giving up the compulsion to be the first to talk is the best thing you’ll ever learn in sales. Instead of reiterating value propositions and asking needless questions to fill gaps, now you will be giving your prospects time to think, process, ask their questions and provide their opinions on the material you’ve covered in the conversation.
But what if they ask, "Why aren't you saying anything?!" Simple. Just reply, "Apologies, I thought you were taking a moment to process that last point. Let’s carry on…" It's really that easy. So the next time there is a momentary silence during one of your conversations, SHUT UP and LISTEN. I promise you it will be the best thing you ever did.