Welcome to another blog. How have you been? Winter seems to have arrived in the UK over the past 10 days or so with some heavy frosts and bright but crisp days. Have your sales results been giving you a nice warm glow, or are you feeling out in the cold?
If you’ve been going through a spell where things just aren’t quite coming together, it’s always worth reminding yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s far too easy to let yourself become negative if you get a few knockbacks, and this can easily spiral and further impact your performance if you’re not careful.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that one of my often repeated messages is that you’ve got to build a healthy pipeline. This not only helps when things aren’t going as well as you’d hope (because it gives you plenty more chances for someone to say yes to you), it’s also vital to continue when things are going great.
Salespeople often forget that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose a sale – that prospect drops out of your pipeline either way! So whether you’re off to a flier in 2020 or things are a little below par, keep the prospect pipeline topped up!
This Tuesday I had a great session with a client who is looking to reinvigorate his sales practice. He said one thing that I thought would make a great subject for a blog. I asked him to go over some of his recent lost sales so we could post mortem what he might have done differently. One thing we hit on quickly was that he feels uncomfortable with silences.
In my opinion, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important sales skills, and being confident with silence is something the very best salespeople always excel at.
Why? Because they know that the less talking they do, the better chances they have of succeeding. Sales should be all about listening rather than talking and yet. The trouble is, we’re social animals, and salespeople have always tended to be more outgoing and engaging.
Reining in that natural tendency to want to engage, to not want to leave a silence, is a powerful tool that can dramatically improve your sales performance.
More than Words
So, how do we get better at saying less?
Identify what makes self-control difficult for you
Yep, it’s self-reflection time! You need to do a bit of soul searching and try and identify the root cause of why you struggle to hold silence. Is it just that it makes you feel uncomfortable, or is it a lack of confidence in what you’re selling? Do you need to keep justifying your service because you haven’t built enough benefits earlier in the sales process?
I helped a client with this last year, and it turned out that the price of their service was the root of their lack of confidence. I got them to repeat the price statement and the figure time and again so that, when they were asked, they could just come out with it with confidence – and importantly, without the need to say anything more!
Train your brain to think differently
In order to change how we do something we need to create new connections in our brain. Once these are formed then we can make the new behaviour more natural and, eventually, unconscious.
Dr Don Vaughn is an expert in this area and he can explain how you can do this far better than I can! Take a look at his excellent TED talk on how the brain works and how to help rewire it here
Here’s one to try the next time you’re in any conversation, not necessarily a sales meeting but, hey, if that’s when it next comes up, go for it. This can be quite hard at first. When you’ve finished saying what you need to say, start to count to 10 in your head. Not quickly, though! No cheating. About a second per number is good. Until you reach 10, you must stay silent.
Read the other person’s body language closely
By monitoring body language and gestures you can understand your client more completely. As an added bonus, this conscious examination will really help you with your urge to speak!
Test yourself to try and identify what your prospect is thinking. If you’re on a call, what can you hear from their tone of voice? If you’re face-to-face, watch their eyes, where are they looking, what’s going on in there?
Step away from the situation
If you’re a fan of the “Dragons’ Den” TV show you’ll have seen many people who’ve made a successful solo pitch ask for a moment to think, and then go to a far corner of the studio. This lets them gather their thoughts and makes sure they don’t speak (with a yes or a no) at haste and then repent at leisure.
If you’re in a sales situation where you think there’s a real risk of putting your foot in it, then just ask for some time to think. You don’t have to physically move away, but the fact that you have told the prospect that you are going to be silent for a while can remove any awkwardness you feel about not speaking.
Reward yourself for not speaking
This has really worked for some of my clients who found it very difficult to keep their mouths shut! I gave them one of those small counters (the mechanical sort used for headcounts at events or similar). The idea is to carry it in your pocket, and every time you’re in a sales situation and you remember to shut up, give it a click.
If you hit a target number in a day (say 5 or 10, depending on how many meetings you have) then give yourself a reward – whatever it is that will make you want to earn it again. Once you start to build on this skill you’ll be amazed at how quickly your brain will fall into this new pattern.
When you Say Nothing At All
What are your root causes for not being comfortable enough to stop talking? If you’re great at it, did it come naturally to you or was it learnt? As ever, I’m always really interested to hear about your experiences, and also to take your questions on improving your sales and business performance. To drop me a line or to enquire about how I can help you increase your sales you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on the usual social sites – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – by searching for “jameswhitesales”.
Until next time, stay safe and here’s to an excellent sales week ahead.