Dont Be Afraid Of Silence

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In any conversation with two or more people, there is a tendency to want to talk all the time to fill any awkward silences or gaps that appear in a conversation.

However, if you think of the conversations that you have with your closest friends or family, you will notice that there isn't the same need to fill these gaps, as silences between you are comfortable. This is generally because you know the other person and the type of character that they are.

Now, if we change this scenario to the sales process you will see that it is a completely different feeling to the one above. Suddenly silence is your worst enemy, the one thing to be avoided during negotiations, the realisation that you are losing the sale.

Well actually, that last statement is completely wrong!

Because a person does not say too much during negotiations does not mean that you are losing the sale. Yes, silence can be awkward to some but to those of you who want to win, silence can be your best friend.

During the negotiations, you will ask your customer a number of open questions and that is absolutely the right thing to do. However once you have asked the question, DO NOT fill the space! Resist the temptation to put words into their mouth.

In other words:

"Ask your open question and then say absolutely nothing until they have replied"

No matter how awkward it becomes or how uncomfortable it may seem, leave your customer to reply. If it takes 5 minutes then so be it. They MUST be allowed to reply in their own time without any help from you.

The reason I am pushing this point is that customers (and people in general) do not like silence. They particularly do not like long silences and they feel that they have to fill the space up with words. Before you know it they have committed to all sorts of things.

So, don't be afraid of the silence and let your customers talk their way into your sale.

Mark Anthony Harrison is a salesman. He is Head of Sales for the UK division of a US investment bank. He also lectures on sales development and management theory. To find out more visit him at

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