Silence Is Golden

Recently, I have been discussing strategies for improving your sales negotiations. There are dozens of strategies, techniques and tactics that can influence your results, but I decided to focus on one aspect of negotiation that many people find challenging to effectively execute: silence.

Many salespeople (myself included) find dead air or silence during a sales conversation a difficult concept to manage. I know that I feel extremely uncomfortable when a period of silence engulfs a sales conversation. However, silence is a very powerful weapon when you are negotiating.

It takes discipline. It requires effort. And it takes concentration. Yet, when used properly, it can help you gain a good deal of leverage in a sales negotiation. Here’s how you can use silence to negotiate a better deal:

Many prospects and customers are also uncomfortable with silence. If you pause for three to five seconds before responding to a comment or statement a person has made, the person will often volunteer additional information that he or she would have otherwise kept to secret.

For example, several years ago my wife was speaking to someone who wanted to use one of my articles in a corporate newsletter. At one point during the telephone conversation, she sensed that he wanted to tell her something so she remained completely quiet. A moment later, he said, “But we only have a budget of $300…is that OK?”

At that time, I often allowed companies to reprint my articles at no charge, but the person my wife was talking to was used to paying for them. Her five seconds of silence helped generate a small sale.

A friend of mine is an account manager for an advertising company. He told me how he had been discussing the terms of an advertising campaign with a new prospect. His prospect asked if he could get a better price on the package. My friend remained silent as he considered his options.

After several seconds of complete silence, his prospect said, “Well, if you can’t do that, it’s OK.” Since that day, my friend always pauses after a demand for a concession has been made. He figures this one technique has saved him thousands of dollars.

When I worked in the restaurant business (my first career), I used to have to interview job applicants. A common tactic was called the “pregnant pause.” After someone had responded to a question, I would smile and look at them expectantly. In most cases, the candidate would volunteer more information, and in some cases, this information influenced my decision about whether to hire that person.

The easiest way to use this tactic in sales negotiation is to remain silent anytime someone asks you for a concession. In many cases, the person will modify or retract his or her demand. It’s not easy to do, but the results are worth it.

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Kelley Robertson helps sales professionals master their sales conversations so they can win more business at higher profits. Get a free copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” and “Sales Blunders That Cost You Money” at http://www.Fearless-Selling.ca.

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