Guest Post written by Michael Arnold, President of Palmetto Partners, LLC, and a member of the Alliance Breakfast Club Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I consider the 1994 movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” to be the ultimate film depicting the highs and lows of being a sales professional. It is the story of a group of real estate salesmen who receive an incentive. Win the sales contest? You just earned a new Cadillac! Lose the sales contest? You’re fired. The first time I watched this movie with my wife she said she got a stomach ache from it. I looked at her and said “Welcome to my job.”
One of my favorite lines from “Glengarry” is delivered by Al Pacino who says “You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” Pacino’s character, Ricky Roma, was angrily telling his sales manager that he should not speak unless he is sure of what the answer is in a particular situation. In Roma’s case, his superior told the new client something contradictory to his story and ultimately ruined the sale. I like to think that I am a more ethical salesperson than Ricky Roma, but I still find wisdom in his words.
Too often, salespeople are guilty of being afraid of silence. A question is asked of the prospect and they are given one second to answer before another question is asked. The reason for this is because people feel uncomfortable when there is silence. The prospect takes a moment to think about the question and the salesperson concludes that they need to say something fast to keep the conversation moving. The salesperson will even answer their own questions because they wish to seem intelligent, often providing the wrong answer at the same time.
What is the purpose of asking a question? Obviously, it is to find out what the other person thinks. So, why don’t we let them answer? Sometimes a moment of silence can seem like an eternity as they are thinking of how to reply to your inquiry. The reason behind this is because we rarely exist in silence ourselves. The radio is on while driving the car. The television is blaring away while we are in the other room, not even watching it. The need to feel like you are doing something at all times occupies the minds of many of us. If you are not comfortable with brief moments of silence by yourself, it becomes difficult to allow that to happen while in a sales presentation.
Without knowing what the prospect is thinking or feeling, you speak without knowing the “shot.” In this case, it means knowing what will motivate the prospect to buy from you.
Next time you’re in a sales situation, ask a question and then tell yourself to “shut up” until an answer is given. Listen carefully to what the prospect is saying instead of thinking about what your next question will be. You may be surprised by what you hear. After all, you are looking to find out what your potential client wants and how you can tailor your message to fill their needs. You are not there to hear yourself speak.
Practice being in silence on your own and you will feel more comfortable doing the same in a prospect’s office. Doing this will help you connect with their reason to buy, and it may eventually help you win a new Cadillac!
Note from Carolyn: Well said, Michael. And now I’ll “shut up” and let our readers process your words.