“You said you’ve been struggling with customer retention for a while,” the sales rep said. “What led you to address it now?”
Unfortunately, before his prospect could reply, the rep followed it with three more.
“Did retention hit a new low? Or are you changing your organizational focus? A lot of folks reach out to me after hiring a customer success manager — does that apply to you?”
The buyer seemed a little overwhelmed, and responded with hesitancy in her voice: “Well, I guess you could say our goals are changing, so a change in organizational focus, I guess.”
Did you see what just happened? The buyer simply picked one of the sales rep’s options rather than potentially giving a reason he hadn’t anticipated.
In his rush to fill the silence, this salesperson missed a precious opportunity to learn more about his buyer’s pain.
Have you ever struggled to talk less? Read on for a simple — yet crazy effective — technique for doing just that.
The Trick to Staying Silent
It takes a lot of self-control to stop talking when you have a plethora of follow-up questions in your head. The good news is that this technique takes self-control out of the equation entirely.
Next time you’re on the phone with a prospect, hit the “mute” button immediately after asking an open-ended question or finishing a statement.
This trick helps you cut yourself off before you say too much. More importantly, muting yourself while your prospect talks will guarantee that you won’t interrupt or prompt them. Even if you do accidentally speak up, your prospect won’t hear you.
The best part about the “mute” strategy? You’ll often find that the buyer has more to say than you’d anticipated.
After they finish their response, it’ll take you a second to press “unmute.” And in that span of time, many people will take a breath — and then continue their answer.
Whatever your prospect says next is usually the most informative and valuable part of their response. Because you’re clearly paying full attention, they feel more comfortable going in-depth. And even if the first part of their answer was more prepared or polished, by this point they’re usually giving their unfiltered thoughts.
Finally, staying silent generates answers you might not expect. If you’re prompting the buyer with a menu of options, they’re probably going to pick one of those choices — even if the real answer is different. But giving them the freedom to say whatever is on their mind ensures their response is accurate.
Pausing is also important to your success during a negotiation. Mute yourself after you introduce a term or ask for a concession, so you don’t accidentally undercut yourself while the buyer processes the information.
Worried that you might pause for too long? Don’t. Your delay might feel like it lasts forever to you, but it’s almost always imperceptible on the other end of the line. If your prospect does ask, “Are you there?” you can reply, “I am — just muted myself so there wouldn’t be any distracting background noise.”
The Long-Term Benefits of the Mute Button
After a couple of months of consistently using this technique, you probably won’t need the “mute” button at all. You’ll have trained yourself to fall silent during the critical times.
In addition to conducting better exploratory phone calls, you’ll enjoy other long-term benefits. Not only will you be a better listener on the phone, but your ability to listen in person will noticeably improve. This skill will come in handy at networking events — where you may find even more opportunities to connect with prospects.
One of the most powerful ways to improve your sales conversations is simply saying less. Use the “mute” button strategically, and you’ll become a better listener right away.
Aja Frost is a Sr. SEO Strategist at HubSpot. She is also a freelance writer specializing in business, tech, career advice, and productivity. Check out her website ajafrost.com and find her on LinkedIn.