When I was seven years old, I watched an encyclopedia salesperson turn a guaranteed “yes” into an emphatic “NO!”
(For non-boomers reading this, an encyclopedia was kind of like Google, but in 25-volume book form.)
My father wanted to buy a set of encyclopedias. The company sent a salesman—they were always men in those days—to the house for a presentation. When he arrived, my dad had his checkbook out. “I’d like to buy them. How much are they?”
The salesman pulled out a flip chart and launched into a presentation. Five minutes later, Dad stopped him, waved the checkbook, and said, “How much?” The guy replied, “Let’s talk about value, not price,” and resumed his pitch.
Dad threw him out of the house, locked the door, and called a competitor. My sales lesson that day: when the customer is ready to buy, shut up and accept the money.
Many of us chose the sales profession because we like to talk. We’re good at it. And sometimes this causes us to talk our way into the sale … and then right back out again.
Jim Schleckser of Inc. Magazine describes one common scenario:
When the big day arrives and you begin your presentation, maybe getting as far as the fifth slide, the CEO (who has flipped through the entire deck) says: “This looks great. Let’s go ahead with this.” What a great moment—you closed the sale!
But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking: We haven’t even gotten to slide 22, which has amazing graphics. And they’re animated! So you continue to slog through your presentation, going on and on, not realizing that you’re draining all of the emotion out of the room. By the time you’re done, the CEO might have even changed their mind and reconsidered their support for your proposal. You had the sale and you lost it because you didn’t stop talking.
Another frequent pitfall comes at the end when the seller asks for the order.
The client takes a breath and is silent for a moment. Silence feels awkward, so your seller starts talking again, repeating the talking points, trying to push the client over the finish line.
But in that silence, the customer is thinking about how they will shift money in the budget and how she’s going to implement the plan. She’s heading for the “yes.”
Interrupting that thought process puts up a barrier and the prospect may decide to deal with the issue later. “Yes” becomes “Call me in two weeks.” Here are two tips to pass along to your team:
- After asking the closing question, pause and wait. The silence may feel awkward, but the customer will speak when they’re ready.
- No law says you must complete an entire presentation from beginning to end. Skip slides if they don’t feel relevant. If the advertiser’s ready to sign, close the laptop and hand ‘em a pen.
Our gift for gab can work against us.
Silence can be our best friend.
Make sure your sellers don’t talk their way out of the sale.