A SNEWS® Training Center article brought to you by SNEWS® and TrainActive/Tom Richard Sales Education
Waiting for his flight home to Connecticut, my brother heard his name announced over the airport intercom system. As he walked to the counter by the gate, he knew he was in for some bad news.
His suspicion was correct. The agent told him the flight had been overbooked, and asked if he would give up his seat for a $200 travel voucher. Tired from the long weekend and in no mood to argue, my brother just stood there, staring at the attendant. Stunned by the lack of response, the attendant looked back at her monitor and began punching some keys. Smiling, the attendant looked up, "Actually we can offer you $250, and we will put you up in a hotel for the night."
With this better offer, my brother realized that his silence had just put him into a game of "Deal or No Deal" with the airline. He began to slowly consider the offer, but before he could reply the attendant had gone back to punching her keyboard with a new tenacity and determination.
After another few moments of unspoken arm-twisting, the attendant, now visibly frustrated, looked up and said in a final offer tone, "OK, we can offer you $350 and a free hotel room for the night."
Satisfied with the offer, my brother replied "OK," which was the first word he spoke in the entire "exchange."
Unknowingly to the attendant, my brother had been satisfied with her very first offer. He was simply taking his time to think it over. Rather than patiently awaiting his answer, or simply asking my brother if he were interested, the attendant took his silence as an objection and immediately sought a better deal.
Salespeople, too, are often guilty of giving into the pressure of silence. Like the attendant, they mistakenly interpret silence as an objection. Having a propensity to assume the objection is price-related, salespeople automatically sweeten the deal with free product, better terms, or a lower price.
However, jumping to these conclusions and feverishly haggling is what could hinder you from understanding your customer and ultimately making the sale. Filling the silence with incessant sales babble after you ask a question tells your customer that your interests, as well as the conversation, are one-sided: You care more about making the sale than you do about understanding your customer.
A great sales conversation is constructed of two parts: the confidence to ask straight-forward questions and the resolution to patiently wait for the customer's response. While most salespeople understand the right questions to ask, they do not have the confidence and willpower to allow the customer to answer. Instead, they fill the silence with sales fluff, and miss out on the opportunity of learning what really interests the customer.
If you ask a customer what he likes about a specific product, don't give in after a few moments of silence and start telling the customer what they should like about the product. Wait for their answer. They may tell you that the size is perfect, or that they love how fast it is, or its color or size. Bingo! Now you know what interests the customer and how you should direct the conversation.
Oftentimes, you'll find your customers are as uncomfortable with silence as you are. If you can summons enough willpower to await their response, you will find that their words will either close the sale or uncover the real objections they have.
There is great power in silence, if you know when and how to use it. Your silence shows your customer that you value their thoughts and concerns. It also shows your customer that you are confident enough in your product and sales manner that you don't need to resort to sales babble to close the deal.
Remember, the purpose of asking a question is to hear the answer. Whatever response you get from your customer, you'll find that their words were worth the wait.
Tom Richard is the President of Tom Richard Marketing and specializes in both marketing and sales education. Visit his website at www.tomrichard.com.