In comedy, well-placed silence is crucial to evoking an audience reaction. These breaks – referred to as “pregnant pauses” — give the crowd time to absorb the joke and react with laughter. But comedians aren’t the only group that benefit from exaggerated gaps in conversation. Pregnant pauses are also useful to employ in the sales process.
Too often, in trying to communicate our value proposition, sales people talk too much, effectively sabotaging their efforts. On-line business and sales leader Roy Bartell puts it this way: “Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking.’ But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.”
In sales, we are always trying to move the prospect forward. If there is no time for discussion, how do we know what the prospect is thinking? Meetings that don’t leave room for attendees to share their thoughts are never concluded, next steps never agreed upon. Gong, which makes a product that analyzes sales conversations, conducted a study to determine the appropriate talk-to-listen ratio for optimal sales. In the more than 25,000 sales conversations analyzed, they found the average B2B sales rep spent 65%-75% of the call talking. That left little time for listening.
Though they may feel uncomfortable at first, adding pregnant pauses in your sales meetings will pay big dividends. Being intentional about leaving “white space” in a conversation ensures your prospect not only comprehends the information you are sharing, but also has time to process and react to it. The Gong study found that top closers spent an average of 43% of their call time talking and 57% listening. The more the salesperson talked, the less likely they were to close the deal.
Pregnant pauses not only give prospects an opportunity to speak, but to do so in the manner most natural for them. Carol Linden of Effective with People emphasizes that communication styles between introverts and extroverts vary significantly. Extroverts need space in the conversation to process their thoughts out loud, which enhances their ability to absorb information. Introverts require time to process information before responding and will wait for others to stop talking before they speak up. If not given the opportunity to voice their thoughts in a meeting, introverts will share them in private with their peers afterward, leaving the sales rep unaware of concerns, objections, or vital information. Whether your prospect thinks to talk or talks to think, extended pauses during the sales meeting are essential to moving the sales process forward.
The next time you are in a sales conversation, take a tip from comedy greats and give your audience the time it needs to respond. The positive results are no joke!