In the golfing world, which is chock full of it’s own jargon and nicknames, there is the classic job summary of a caddie job: Show Up, Keep Up, and Shut Up. Most caddies will agree that the third step is the hardest. Knowing when to chime in, encourage, give advice, and when to keep quiet.

Likewise, in the sales world, the third step is often the hardest. Salespeople hate silence. Silence “sounds” like uncertainty. Hesitancy. Lack of enthusiasm from the buyer. Salespeople hate silence because they are not talking and commanding the floor. They are not being charming, or authoritative – or so convincing and compelling in their pitch, that no one could possibly question the overwhelming logic of their proposition.

So they talk. And when the client asks a question, they talk. Then the client considers the answer, and they keep talking further to emphasize the answer they just gave, so that the client has even more information. And even when there’s a natural pause….<they talk some more, like here, to fill the space>….

Recently, I had the privilege of working with a major digital content company to help them get their sales message out in a more effective manner. We examined everything…from presentation deck formats to verbal responses to client objections, to how to open a call and more. Proven sales techniques often overlooked in the overheated digital echo (sic) system – including the use of silence.

The best part about training is watching people execute the tools and practices and then, getting success. Recently, I accompanied a rep into the second call we had made with a local client. This time around, we were making the actual pitch and the client added their finance officer to the meeting. Together we pitched our recommendation in a very back and forth manner – allowing pauses for questions & exchanges. We got to the “investment” page, and after clarifying some details, the time for reaction/decision was here. As they were looking at the numbers…

…we kept quiet. Then the clients started talking with each other (note: not to us), debating certain aspects of the proposal between themselves. And we kept quiet. They worked their way closer to alignment, and we kept quiet. Nearly 2 full minutes of us not saying a word. Then, the client looked up at the rep (we’ll call her Susan) “Susan, what do you think we should do?”.

As a sales rep, to be invited into the decision-making process in a trusting way, is a bonus in any proposal situation. In this case, it was even more powerful because of it happening after all the silence we actively created. It was almost like we were saying “It’s OK, you two work it out. We’re here if you need us.” – even though not a word was spoken on our side. They actually wanted us to chime in to help lock it down. End result – proposal was agreed upon and new business was secured.

Silence, like any sales tool, should be used at the right time and place. But for sheer elegance and simplicity, silence can be the most impactful moment of a business or personal exchange.