Credit: Jeffrey Pelo

As I was getting off work at my grocery store job just before going to meet my girlfriend's family for the first time, I told my supervisor where I was going. He smiled and offered me this advice: When you meet them, be quiet. If you don't say much, after you leave they will say: “He was so nice,” or “He seems smart.”

What he was suggesting was a way for me to avoid having my excitement and nervousness get me into a ramble. Stay quiet and the perception stays positive. This turned out to be great advice.

SILENTLY IN CONTROL Many salespeople think their job is to talk. They talk about their company, its products, the installation, and themselves. They talk and talk. The prospect, of course, is focused on his or her situation. And it's important to let your prospect do the talking. Many times people will tell you how to sell them if you let them. You are always in control of a conversation when you're listening.

Many sales trainers will say that “He who talks first, loses.” In most cases, that's true. Silence allows the prospect to gather his or her thoughts. Why interrupt for no reason? I have seen this work in real life many times.

A few years back, when I was working in radio, I was riding with a lady on a sales presentation. She and I were presenting an advertising campaign to a prospect. We had an outstanding presentation and a solid plan, based on what the prospect had told us. Naturally the campaign we offered was a little over the budget our prospect had indicated. But on presenting it, he looked at us and said, “This is way more than my budget!” And that was all he said. As my coworker began to speak, I nudged her under the table. The prospect sat quietly for several long minutes. Then he began to think out loud. “There are a lot of commercials in this proposal,” he said to himself. “Your station does reach my target customer.” And after deliberating in that manner, he looked across the desk and asked when we could get started.

BREAK THE CHATTER HABIT Salespeople talk in an effort to rid themselves of anxiety. It becomes a habit, and the next thing they know, they're doing it whether they want to be or not. They may also be losing sales because of it.

Want to know a good way to break the habit? Count to three before saying anything. Then consider: 1) Is what I'm about to say meaningful? 2) Am I responding to a true concern, or am I just talking for the sake of talking? At that point you can decide whether you should say something or not. Usually you're better off if you don't say anything.

Recently I was at a customer's home presenting an entry door. After figuring the door exactly the way they wanted it, I told them the price and asked for the order. The lady of the house immediately said, “We can get Home Depot out here to give us a price, too.” I sat silently. After all, she hadn't asked me anything. “Is this your best price?” the husband asked. Without explaining or qualifying, I simply responded, “Yes.” The next minute and 47 seconds felt like forever. Then he said, “I'm going to do it. Write it up!”

Often we feel the need to respond to everything all of the time. In reality, we need to take a breath and give our prospects time to think. By asking the right questions on the front end and continuing to trial close, by asking questions throughout your presentation, you oftentimes kill objections before they arise. This makes closing an easy transition.

So sit tight, keep your lips tight, and let the prospects close themselves. —Brian Brock is sales manager at Hullco, a home improvement company in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Does your company have a business practice or installation technique to share with the industry? Call Jim Cory at 215.923.9810 or e-mail