Archive for the ‘Silence’ Category

Using silence

June 20, 2007

I like smart people that always find ways to sell something without being pushy.  That tempts me to think of ways of doing some of it myself. I keep reading a lot on that and write some myself.  Sample my earlier pieces here

Recently I read a very insightful post by Jill Konrath on the topic of selling.  It’s a long post, but I would excerpt and edit the moot aspects for the sake of contextual brevity.

All managers would love to but struggle answering the question “What is the one single thing that you or your company could do in the upcoming 12 months that would dramatically impact your sales?”

It makes them stop and think, “Hmm. What would that one thing be? New offerings? More calls? Additional allocation to our marketing budget? Which would have the most impact?”

When they answer you’ll learn a whole lot about what’s going on in their organization, what the big challenges are, the decision maker’s perspective on the issues and solutions and so much more.

But they can’t think of all that in just two or three seconds.

They need much longer to ponder the question, to play around with it in their mind and to sort through their options.

In fact, research shows they need 8-10 seconds to formulate the start of their answer. And once they get talking, they think of more ideas.

If you’re like most sellers, silence drives you crazy. When you’re talking with a prospective customer and there’s a brief lull in the discussion, I bet you jump right in to fill it. When you cut them off at only 2-3 seconds, you lose in more ways than you can imagine.

  • You don’t get the benefit of your good question. You never learn all the good stuff they could be telling you if you’d just kept your mouth shut a little longer.
  • When you don’t learn all this info, it’s so much harder to sell anything because you don’t know how your offering can make the biggest difference to your customer.
  • Besides that, your customer thinks that you’re self-serving and only interested in achieving your own objectives. (Isn’t that what you think when people keep cutting you off?)
  • You don’t establish a positive relationship with the person, so they really don’t want to meet with you again.

And all this happens because you don’t know how to count beyond three.I think it’s a great insight.  The value of silence in selling is rarely talked about. Mostly people focus on what they’re going to say. 

Get Jill’s full post here.  Anyways tell me what do you think.


When selling to big customers

April 20, 2007

“Between successive thoughts or desires, there’s a brief interlude of tranquility.Go find yourself there.”  – Bhagavad Gita 

What happens when you make repeated pitch to a big corporation and don’t come away with the order ?   But the best clients are not always the easiest to get. If you don’t grasp the realities of the corporate environment, you may sabotage even a hot lead. Selling your services to big corporations is an attractive proposition. The contracts are larger than with small businesses and individuals, and often longer-term. There’s the possibility of repeat business worth many billable hours at respectable rates.Sad and desperate, you either give up or curse your luck and try again. When it still doesn’t come, you quit trying. It’s quite rare that you search for reasons why you are not getting it. It could be bad pricing, lack of features or after sales support or there’s no money in the budget.  Or may be you weren’t talking to the decision maker. Yet, you thought you can get it if you persist with it. In all probability, you’ve just lost that customer by adopting the wrong tactic.

If you scratch the surface a bit, you may get some fresh insights.

When selling to big corporations every sale must be justified to someone else in the organization.  A supervisor must justify choices to a manager, the manager to an executive, the executive to the CEO, the CEO to the board, the board to the shareholders. Each one of these people wants to look good and dreads making a public mistake. If you want your sale to go through, you need to provide your contact with evidence why you and your solution are the best choice.

Individuals and small businesses buy services in the category of nice-to-have, often to improve their quality of life or of their employees. Corporations, especially in lean times, don’t. You must sell them something they actually need and prove how it will enhance their bottom line. A good selling strategy is to provide real-life examples of results at other companies.

Analyze, analyze, analyze all the time…not just physically, spiritually too.  While physical analysis gives you insights, the spiritual probe energizes you with new vigor.

The problem has been that you were so focused on action born out of ignorance which can be remedied only by enlightening your action with understanding. For that, you have to surrender your assumption of knowledge or to say it in one word, ego. 

Surrender your inadequacies to the mystery of life.  It’s a leap from the ordinary to the sacred, from the logical to the cosmic.  If you resist that, you create agony for yourself.  For eg. If  a stone is thrown on the wall, it makes a noise.  But if a stone is thrown in empty space it just passes through.  The wall is like an ego.  When you are scorned by another, you don’t get hurt if you are drained of ego as the spite will simply pass across. Very often we despair because we are not open to the vastness of life. We are bound by our knowledge.  We are dead to all that is beyond our knowledge. What we know is finite and what we do not know is infinite. To be alive and limited to what we know and dead to what we don’t is the root cause of anguish.

How difficult has it been for you to sell to a big corporation?  How did you get back on feet after that mind numbing initial setback ? .

Art of silent negotiations

March 29, 2007

Hadn’t we often wished we haven’t said something to someone ?  You can ask for an instant apology and even strive to explain you didn’t really mean what you had said.  But then you’ve lost the advantage of covert intentions since a shrewd listener would’ve tracked it down. Things are never the same.  

In business, just as in other life situations, such occasions are guaranteed embarrassments. Outcome of critical decisions often hinge on spontaneous (in)discretion whether to react or hold back on specific occasions – be it negotiating terms of a routine service agreement with vendors or while walking tightrope on a valuation issue with a prospective acquirer or seller. By intelligently punctuating the negotiation stages with occasional interludes of silence, clever negotiators get what they want.  Tom Evslin has nicely illustrated a few such instances here. 

A little analysis of the power of silence itself.   

We can’t speak about silence. By that, we disturb it. For most of us it’s really difficult to remain silent when another talks to us since we need to disprove Newton’s third law.  Some situations demand exactly that just yet. How do we create that silence (a living, vibrant one and not of the eerie kind as in a graveyard) in us ? 

The silence I seek to build is that of an enlightened master.  To get there, we need to know what could stop us along the way. First off, we don’t trust our ability to experience it.  We think, this is not for us. Why not ?  This is the property of the universe and rightfully belongs to us.  You need only be alive and seeking.  Secondly, shed the guilt in us and start respecting ourselves. Stop measuring us by our failures and try remembering the good things that we’ve done to others and for ourselves.  The memories of good things evoke significant positive energy and that is the strength of our being.  Third, understand what enlightenment means. It just means knowing your true self by consulting your conscience as often as you can in practically every thing you say and do. Soon you’ll realize not a thing you say or do that is not supported by your conscience.  You are enlightened.  

Words can have the opposite effect if left unsaid too. Almost as if they were spoken as opposites. Silence can equal the opposite. “I love you” unsaid can become “I don’t love you” out loud. This calls for application of discretion – another art by itself.

Hovering over the outcomes of life events when we had said or unsaid something and drawing lessons help develop an innate sense of discretion in us.  The entire process is quickened.  At the next decision point, the process becomes almost automatic. We synthesize all the available data and lay down all options we have. We go over each of these options with our colleagues and trace out what’s in the firm’s best interest.  Then we develop different scenarios of the negotiations in our mind and decide whether to react (if so, how) or not, to each of such situations.  All these processes concurrently questioned and debated internally with our conscience and that which seem to be downright deal breakers are eliminated.  While being tough, we don’t let go off that deal.  

The best negotiators are those who seem fair to all even as they end up with a clear edge.  Evslin says it’s not enough to win negotiations, it’s important to win in its right dimension – don’t just settle for some crumbs when you can win the loaf !