One of the simplest ways to differentiate untrained salespeople from experienced ones? Pay attention to how much they talk.
Successful reps spend the majority of their time with prospects listening and asking questions, rather than talking about their product -- or talking at all.
Not only does this strategy help them earn buyers’ trust, it also leads to insights reps can use to personalize their messaging and recommend the right solution.
Despite the major payoff of saying less, many salespeople struggle to do so. These five techniques will help overly talkative reps be more brief.
1) Write Yourself a Post-It Note Reminder
A visual reminder to speak less can have a big impact. Reps can write a note to themselves and stick it somewhere visible, such as on their monitor or near their phone. When they’re on a call, seeing that note typically helps them tamp down the instinct to talk.
HubSpot sales rep Gary Valenti keeps a note on his desk that reads “W.A.I.T.,” an acronym for “Why Am ITalking?”, and also uses technique #2 to keep his conversations focused.
This technique still works in face-to-face meetings, although it requires getting a little creative. Salespeople can jot down their desk reminder on the front page of their notes when they attend client meetings. When they look at their papers, they’ll see the reminder. Clients, of course, will have no idea.
2) Ask Your Question, Then Press Mute
Reps who can’t stop interrupting their prospects should use their phone’s mute button. Pressing “Mute” while the buyer talks makes it impossible to cut in -- even if the salesperson does let something slip, their prospect will be none the wiser.
This strategy also gives prospects the chance to expand on their thoughts. They often seem like they’re completely finished talking. However, in the second it takes reps to press “Unmute,” many prospects will take a breath and continue talking.
3) Track How Long You Speak
To keep their prospects engaged, salespeople should generally speak for less than 30 seconds at a time during discovery. The average person can pay attention for a mere eight seconds -- so if the rep has been asking questions for half a minute, there’s a strong chance their prospect has stopped listening or forgotten the original query.
Reps should review their recorded calls with a stopwatch to see how long they usually speak. This exercise will give them a good sense of when they’re talking too long.
4) Don’t Announce Intent Before Making Requests
Most people naturally preface a request by explaining why they’re asking. But as Jeff Hoffman explains, this tendency doesn’t just make salespeople sound pushy -- it also adds five to 20 seconds every time they pose a question or make an ask. Over the course of a call, those seconds add up.
Reps should get to the point faster by cutting out their initial explanation.
Announcing intent:“Now that we’ve determined your needs, I’d like to loop in the other stakeholders. Is there a good time next week for us to meet?”
Getting straight to the point: “Is there a good time next week for you, me, and other stakeholders to meet?”
As a bonus, eliminating the upfront explanation helps reps cut out selfish phrases like “I’d like,” “I want,” “I’d love,” and so on.
5) Write Down Your Questions
Salespeople should fight the urge to ask multiple things at once by writing down their questions. With the question in front of them, reps won’t feel compelled to ask it immediately so they don’t forget. As an added bonus, they’re free to concentrate fully on the buyer’s answer instead of reminding themselves to ask the question, an essential part of active listening.
6) Ask One Question at a Time
Two, three, or four-part questions are overwhelming for prospects. It’s impossible for them to remember everything the rep asked, so they usually end up answering the last question they heard. Reps will need to repeat themselves to get the information they’re looking for -- which means they’ll be taking up even more airtime.
This also helps reps adapt to their prospect’s responses. If the buyer gives an unexpected response to the salesperson’s first question, the salesperson will probably want to change their next one. By asking one question at a time, reps give themselves the freedom to modify their line of inquiry.
It’s tough to speak less. You need to be conscious of everything you say: Its purpose, relevance, and impact. Once you’ve mastered the art of brevity, your prospects will reward you with deeper engagement and greater respect.
Originally published Oct 11, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017