The best Sales Advice in the World

Shut Up/Zip It

[Storvo.inc from Flickr]

Shut up.

But, truthfully, how useful is it?

It’s a bit like asking you to hold your breath running to catch a bus.

Of course, whoever coined the expression was well meaning, but when was the last time you tried to close a deal, saying nothing?

Some may argue that timing is everything:

“Whenever you ask a closing question. Shut up. The first person to speak loses.”

But we are always closing.

“Don’t you agree?”

There may be a signature moment when you know that, depending on the outcome, your consumer will either have bought or rejected you/your offering, but, perhaps, a better advice tip is to actually ask for the business? Don’t confuse this axis with that stock-in-trade question “Can I help you?” which always evinces of the same answer. But something more direct:

“Are you willing now to invest in our product/service?”

As a 13-year old porter on a campsite, I had to close: “Can I carry your bags?” No ask, no work. And the same in recruitment: “When would you like to see the candidate?”

A lot of people are afraid to ask for fear of rejection. That is perfectly understandable. No one wants their confidence rocked but, truth be told, sales is a numbers game (sorry Seth). The trick is to ask more often, act on the feedback, get better, try closing again and repeat.

As a nation, we are far too timid. But there is a difference between hassling people and being adroit enough to know when you are about to get a tongue-lashing. Choosing your moment is critical.

Next time you ask a closing question and are met with rejection, politely ask for feedback? Don’t accept the first thing you are told – it is seldom the main or only reason. It may be price, timing or something more fundamental.

The other skill that goes hand-in-glove with the ability to Shut Up is strategic listening. Not the sort of lame “Oh I see what you mean” but the type where you listen deeply to what is being said. Use all five senses. So much is given off in our body language, eyes and general demeanour that people don’t pick up. They are normally so focused on asking the next question that they don’t properly hear (five senses listening) the answer to the question they have just asked.

This is not the place to debate the nature vs. nurture question. All I know is that all the great salespeople act like pros. They practice, drill and rehearse before they ever put themselves in harm’s way. This doesn’t mean they act like somnambulists. It means they have rehearsed the responses and have their replies worked out.

Notwithstanding my disillusionment with the legal profession and its incessant drive for more fees, I am a staunch believer in the sales profession to make a meaningful difference to your business. Great salespeople bring ideas to life, show there is a future and support your growth. Given the way in which the business can be remodelled, it’s a surprise that so few businesses are willing to invest in any basic training.

In summary, stop taking for granted your so called communication skills. Open questions, listening and keeping quiet are all so basic but then so is the fact that every pro is a pro because they do the basics better than anyone else.

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