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Small Compass Sound Sales: Know When and How Much To Talk

By Mark McGlinchey - Written by Compass Group Solutions Founder Mark McGlinchey, this article first appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal

When I encounter entry level or unskilled salespeople, I frequently find they talk too much. Many times, this is also true when I encounter someone who has been labeled as a “natural salesperson” or “someone who could sell snow to Eskimoes.” There is a misconception among salespeople that they need to do most of the talking on a sales call – often this is done in the form of promoting features and benefits. As salespeople, they feel it is their job to “talk up” their company and its products or services. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As I like to say, “When you’re tellin’… you’re not sellin’.”

Most likely, if you’re in sales, you’re talking too much – whether you believe it or not. The masterful art of sales is listening much more than you talk. I would even suggest that you find a subtle way to keep track of how much time you talk during a sales call and how much time you allow the prospect to talk. You may be surprised by the outcome of this exercise. I’ve found that most salespeople believe they talk about half as much as they actually do. If they think they talk for ten minutes on a thirty minute call, they usually talk for closer to twenty minutes.

Questions, Questions, Questions

In actuality, you should be doing 20% of the talking and 80% of the listening. When you do talk, most of what you say should come out in the form of questions. By asking questions, you immediately allow your prospect to begin to talk – yet you maintain control of the conversation. The more your prospect talks, the more information you will gather about their problem or situation.

In fact, if you’re not asking enough questions or if you’re uncomfortable asking certain questions, you are giving the prospect the upper hand. The sales process should not be a one-way street – where the buyer is holding most of the cards with the salesperson holding very few, or none. It is unfair for the buyer to get whatever information he can from you, and for him not to give up equally important information you need in return. Stop preventing yourself from knowing what you really need to know. Stop guessing, stop assuming and stop talking, and start asking more questions.

Just Because You’re Not Talking, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Listening.

Good listening skills are important not only in everyday life, but are especially important in sales. Monopolizing a conversation in a social situation tends to make other people uncomfortable or even agitated. Unfortunately, this simple social faux pas is many times overlooked in a selling environment. If talking too much in a normal conversation is recognized as unacceptable, why do so many salespeople continue to do so? Not only does this have a negative impact on trying to establish bonding and rapport with a prospect, it can put the whole deal in jeopardy.

However, simply handing over the reigns of a conversation or sales call doesn’t mean you’re actually listening. It can take a long time to truly develop great listening skills. It is a process that requires practice and, at times, a lot of effort. There are some basic things you can do to get yourself on the right track.

Is My Excitement Rubbing Off on You?

You should also keep your emotions low. At a party or in a social environment, you can be animated or speak passionately about a subject. In sales, leave your emotions at the door. There’s nothing wrong with having a positive attitude, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a true belief and conviction in your products and services. However, enthusiasm is not like the common cold – just because you have it does not mean your prospects are going to catch it. In fact, the opposite is usually true. The more upbeat and positive you are, the more negative and aloof the prospect is. By containing your emotions on a sales call, it will be much easier to determine the prospect’s true emotions.


Keywords: Sales Tips, When and How Much to Talk, Talking, Talking to Much, Selling Tactics, Selling Solutions, Sales Professional Development, Sales Leadership Development, Sales Management Tips, Sound Sales, Sales Consulting, Compass Group Solutions, Mark McGlinchey

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