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Shhh! In Sales, There are Times to be Silent

Keeping quiet at critical moments also frees you up to listen and pay attention to non-verbal communication.

No, no - not awkward silence. Don’t sit in a prospect meeting idly and wait for the prospect to take the lead. When meeting with a prospect, strategic pauses can have an impact on the conversation and ultimately your ability to land the business. Silence is a skill that takes conscious effort. The following are six situations in which it pays to zip-it.

  1. After you hear a concern, pause for a few seconds before you respond.
    Pausing after a concern or objection does a few things. First, it gives you an opportunity to process the objection and consider your response. Second, it shows the prospect you are processing their objection and not trying to quickly overcome it. People like to feel as though they are heard. For example, if your prospect is concerned about your fees, you would first pause to consider the objection. Next you could ask a clarifying question like, “What services are you receiving from your current advisor?”
  2. When you ask for a commitment, wait for your prospect to speak.
    When you finally pop a question like “how would you like to move forward?” to your prospect, it can be nerve racking. At times, silence can feel like a “no.” That said, usually they just need a second to process things. Standing your ground here with a moment of silence displays confidence and will help to push the relationship forward.
  3. When you ask an important question, slowly count to ten.
    Sometimes your prospect needs time to think through their response. As tempting as it may be to fill in the awkward silence after you ask a significant or challenging question, resist. Just wait it out. Get comfortable with the silence. After you ask a thought-provoking question to a prospect, start slowly counting to ten to yourself. If your prospect hasn’t responded by the time you reach ten, then you’re free to step in and clarify.
  4. When a prospect is speaking and pauses don’t immediately jump in, they may have more to say.
    When you give your prospect space in the conversation, oftentimes they’ll continue to fill it. If you prospect is divulging, and takes a breather, don’t jump in. Your silence will often prompt them to keep talking and resultantly give you more information. This is especially important for prospects that are more reserved and less talkative.
  5. After you make a key point, pause to imply importance.
    Use this one sparingly. If you start pausing after everything you say, it will lose its effect. That said, when you state something of importance, finish it with a moment of silence, and let your prospect be the next one to speak. For example, after you explain your team’s differentiators don’t immediately jump in and ask a question. Instead, pause to let it sink in with your prospect. Wait for a verbal response. If you need some help thinking through your differentiators, catch Episode 31 of the Stephen and Kevin Show.
  6. Wait for a response after using a “check.”
    We’re fans of using checks like, “does that make sense?” or “are we on the same page?” When you ask one of these questions show that you genuinely mean it. Sometimes we utter a “does that make sense?” and steamroll the conversation. Instead, allow space for your prospect to respond.  

While there are many benefits to using silence strategically, keeping quiet at critical moments also frees you up to listen and pay attention to non-verbal communication. During your next meeting with a prospect, give the above ideas a try. While some might feel uncomfortable at first, with practice, you’ll have bi-directional discussion with your prospect, and be more in-tune with them as a result.

@StephenBoswell is President of The Oechsli Institute and author of Best Practices of Elite Advisors@KevinANichols is the Chief Operating Officer for The Oechsli Institute and author of The Indispensable LinkedIn Sales Guide for Financial Advisors.

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