Silence isn’t easy for most salespeople. In fact, most of us have been told, “You can talk to anyone! You should be in sales!”
They are correct with their intent, but not in execution. On the surface, this means you are not shy and will not be uncomfortable talking with strangers. It means, people like you and will talk to you. Take it for the compliment it is…then leave it there.
Because the very best sellers (and the very best leaders) talk less. In fact, Hubspot recently reported that buyers ranked “listening” as the #1 way sellers could improve their experience. As a seller, a leader, and a human, silence is something I’m still working on. Here’s why:
We fill dead air when we’re nervous, don’t we? We’ll recommend something and then word vomit all the reasons why. It’s instinctual. A recommendation (sales or otherwise) is a risk. It’s putting your opinion out there for rejection, and our brains are hard-wired to avoid the pain of rejection. We anticipate the push back and over-sell the reasons. And by doing so, we tip our hands and show our lack of confidence.
But, what if we were recommending something as brilliant and intrinsically valuable as let’s say, oxygen? Would we immediately talk about all the features and benefits? Its fabulous little hydrogen atoms and the whole, “keeping you alive” functionality? Ridiculous. We’d say, “I have the answer. It’s oxygen. Just breathe.”
Confident people give their recommendations, opinions, or reports, and then they just breathe. They sit back. They watch and listen, perhaps with a little smile – just radiating inner loveliness and peace and Buddha-like calm acceptance of whatever may come next. This is how I picture uber self-confident people.
They wait for the listener to respond – perhaps to give feedback or ask questions, and then they join the listener on the path their question led them. Just happily guiding and discussing as they stroll down the path together. Their answers are short and wise and well-thought-out. They listen. They consider. They provide a recommendation. Can you see this wise person in your mind? Try picturing an oracle, a monk, a minister if you can’t. See how they radiate calm and confidence and assuredness. They are happy to be of service and to share their wisdom. There may be actual sunshine glowing behind them. They are quietly awesome. (Challenge: give this person your face. See what it feels like to glow with wisdom and confidence.)
Now picture yourself and the last thing you recommended – to a prospect, a customer, a boss, a co-worker. When I do this, I hear a hard THUNK in my mind. A literal fall from grace as I face the harsh reality of seeming more like an eager puppy than a wise sunshiney shaman. I feel myself just dying to be pet. I jumped, I barked, I nipped and drooled…I may have dribbled on the floor.
So, how do we get to this wise person from where we are? One word: Confidence.
Confidence in what we are saying.
Confidence in our value-add.
Confidence in our position.
Confidence in our own space in this world.
I’ve glimpsed it, but it is fleeting. It takes actually seeing ourselves as the wise oracle sunshine glowy person to act like them. And that, my friends, is the real trick isn’t it?
A person like that probably meditates every day. Me? I want to…I really, really want to. But I’m a little afraid of all that silence. So I fill it with my to-do list instead. I fill that time with my fears and criticism and the five other things I should be doing until I get up and go do them.
A person like that is probably infinitely smart, and experienced, and perfect.
Ahhh, grasshopper, that is where we go off course. That person is no smarter or better than we are. But they have done one critical thing that we have not. They have given themself permission to not be perfect. They’ve embraced their worth just as they are, and they’re completely unattached to being right. Their ego and sense of self will not be impacted by how you respond to them. We can tell that they want only to serve and to learn and to experience. They know who they are and they love themself anyway. Confidence is unconditional love at its core, isn’t it?
They do not need to be right.
They do not need to be perfect.
They do not need to be the smartest person in the room.
They do not need recognition or to be better than others.
They are OK with getting it wrong or with recommending something you don’t like because it does not shake their sense of worth. They don’t need your approval because they have their own.
Visualizing this is our first step to becoming this. Visualize yourself as the glowy sunshiney wise person while you recommend your product or service or speak up in a meeting.
Now, notice your feelings the next time you speak up, report, sell…whatever. Sit with them for a few minutes afterward and ask if you were afraid, and of what. Ask if you were seeking approval or fearing rejection while speaking. Then give yourself the feedback you wanted. (Literally, tell yourself what you needed to hear, like, “That was brilliant Lauren.” I love that one.). Finally, forgive yourself for the fear and need to be perfect. Pet the puppy and let her try again.
Once you can notice your own feelings and needs, practice. Find an opportunity in your calendar today where you’ll play your more confident self. Give yourself feedback ahead of time, visualize yourself being silent and helpful and wise and sunshiney. Then do it and see what happens. Do not expect perfection. Shoot for a small improvement! It’s OK to still be a puppy…just maybe try not to pee on the floor 😉
Repeat this: Visualize, practice, give yourself feedback. Pick one interaction a day and even chart your progress if you’re feeling feisty.
Here’s a tactical tip to help get you started.
Try beginning with, “I have a recommendation.” or, ”I recommend…” Then give yourself one sentence for the recommendation and one sentence on why you chose this for that person. Not features or functionality or benefits, but a personalized reason.
“I have a recommendation. I think the Amazon Firestick is the right choice for you. I know how you like variety and control.” (I may have been researching screen mirroring devices for my PC/TV this morning).
The listener will consider. They’ll think. They’ll ask a question. And now you’re walking a path together.
Now, how about in a meeting with your boss?
“I recommend that we skip the holiday gifts and donate to a charity instead. I thought you would appreciate giving back as well as the time savings.”
Now just sit there and breathe (and glow.)
Embrace the silence. And embrace yourself on this journey.
If you’re a manager who could use some help on improving your listening skills when it comes to coaching your reps, I recommend you try Factor 8’s COACHN Model. You can grab the guide here: https://factor8.com/6-call-coaching-secrets/