Little Things #1: Silence is Gold
Mastering the Vacuum
March 20, 2012 at 1:15 am by Blair
There's money in silence. Tons of it.
If I had to pick the most valuable little piece of advice on improving sales performance I would choose the Jedi mind trick of mastering silence. Everyone can learn to do it with just a little practice and the net effect on a deal, a business and a career can be profound.
The trick is, after you deliver a price (For work like this for companies like yours we usually charge around $50,000) or an objection (We don't typically respond to RFPs) you shut up and wait for the prospect to fill the vacuum that nature is reputed to abhor. Your ability to remain calm and comfortable in these moments of silence is worth untold thousands of dollars. Think about it: how many times have you rushed to fill the void in a sales situation with phrases such as, "... but we could do it for less," or "Let me write that up in a proposal."
You don't need to completely master silence, just master it better than your opponent. I was purchasing something from a trained salesperson recently and I couldn't get over how the longer I said nothing, the more he cut his price until he quickly got to what I'm sure was the lowest he was allowed to go. After torturing him long enough with my silence I finally asked, "Is that the best you can do?"
In truth, I'm not entirely comfortable trying to negotiate someone down to the lowest possible point. I have this fundamental flaw in that I believe people should be paid fairly for what they do. But when the reverse is happening - someone is trying to get me to lower my price, I'm perfectly happy to play the waiting game. The longer the silence, the greater the fun. It wasn't always this way, but it takes only conscious effort and just a little bit of practice.
The first few times try counting to ten backwards under your breath, or focusing your attention on something else like your manicure, baseball statistics or your breathing - do anything to occupy your mind and put yourself in that zen-like state. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to get better at this quickly.
After you've mastered silence you can turn your attention to other forms of needless and expensive void filling such as lengthy proposal writing (when you're looking for the document to do what you will not do: ask for the deal) and PowerPoint presentations about you when you would be better served having conversations about the prospect and his need. It'll get you wondering how much of the speaking and writing you do in the sales cycle is really about your own need to fill in the uncomfortable spaces.