As Seen in Builder Architect Magazine

Almost everything you’ve read about listening toyour prospects is the same. But, if you have normal hearing, listening skills are probably not an issue. So why do salespeople miss so much of what the customer is saying?

It is actually quite simple. The average brain processes about 650 words a minute. Most people speak at around 125 words a minute and herein lies the challenge. When two people have a discussion, there are actually three conversations going on. One between the two people and a side bar each individual is having with themselves. Side bar conversations determine what we say next. The process also determines what we leave out!

The side bar conversation within a salesperson is largely populated with thoughts of what they will say next, when in really, they should be more interested in what the customer/prospect “might” say next. This information is often missed or lost because as soon as there’s a break, the salesperson jumps right in.

Salespeople unknowingly interrupt their prospects in this way for two primary reasons, one is to get their selling points across and the second is because they are worried the next words out of the prospects mouth will be some type of stall or put off. I call this “sales pitfall” the Fear of Silence.

In an attempt to fill the void, you may stifle the facilitation of your prospects thoughts. The keys to a successful transaction often reside in the unspoken word or the internal sidebar conversations I spoke about earlier.

On a more conscious level, your prospect may be electing to omit or withhold some of their thoughts for fear that you may exploit them. In fact, prospects have become proficient at keeping their cards close to the vest. As a result, sales people have been taught to ask questions. The prospects are on to this and although a good question is far better than a poor one, consider this for a moment.

Shakespeare wrote, “The silence, often of pure innocence, persuades where speaking fails.” Sometimes saying nothing is the best question.

Here are a couple of common errors salespeople make when it comes to silence. One, salespeople often answer statements. Example:

Prospect: I wonder how this is going to look in my living room.

Salesperson: It pretty much goes with everything.

Error, the salesperson just ended the prospects process of visualization of how it would look. Don’t help, acknowledge what they said by nodding your head.

The second error is when a salesperson asks a question that does not get an immediate response and they begin to do one of three things. 1. Ask the question again in a different way. 2. Ask a totally different question. or 3. Try to help the prospect answer the original question. Stop and listen to what they say. You may have to train yourself to count to ten in your head after you ask a question but, let them answer on their own even if they struggle. Don’t rescue them, wait and listen, you may be surprised by their introspective response.

I’m not big on word puzzles but I do find it interesting that by rearranging the letters that make up the word LISTEN, you can also spell the word SILENT.

At a rate a rate of speed around 125 words a minute there is still over 500 words a minute kicking around in your prospects mind. They might not share their thoughts with you right away, you may have to pry them out, but rest assured they are there if you listen closely, somewhere in the silence.


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