Silence: The Power of the Pause

I'm an extrovert. I like to talk. Silence isn't natural to me. I think my opinions and ideas are important. But this can really be a challenge or obstacle if you're selling. Now truth be told – I've never held a role with the title that has “Sales” in the name.  But as a person who has started up a couple companies and launched a ton of software products, I'm always selling.  In other words, I've learned the hard way that talking can hurt more than help. So here are three moments that a strategic pause (a proactive choice for silence) can help you.

Pause when Telling a Story

Every time you talk with people, but especially if you're introducing them to a new product, make sure that the story you're telling has room for a strategic pause. That little moment of silence between your “paragraphs” so that someone can step in and ask a question. If people aren't tracking with you, you want to know early – not after 25 minutes of non-stop talking. So as I'm telling clients a story about a client pain, or a lesson learned, I often pause and ask a reflection question like, “Does that make sense?” or “Does that match up with your experience?” This helps me keep the story on track and know that my audience is engaged. Want to know more about storytelling in business, check out this new book, Tell to Win.

Silence before the Quote

This past week at work I was speaking with a client about the cost of a project and when he asked me directly what it was going to cost, I paused. I just waited. I thought about  a lot of stuff, but mostly I just let silence do the work for me. I don't want to negotiate with myself, so if I reply with a number before I learn more about what he can and wants to pay, I'm leaving money on the table. That pause – this time about 8 seconds – was all that was needed for him to ask me, “Well, can we get it for $50,000?” I can't express the joy I had – knowing that our folks had been thinking $25,000. That's right – a pause can earn you $25,000 in 8 seconds. Do the math – if you pause for a few minutes, or hours, you could get rich with silence! 🙂

Before you Say the Wrong Thing

We've all had those moments where we were so excited we started talking before we thought twice about it. Today I was on two different calls where staff were so excited to share news that they started talking about something before ever asking themselves if it was strategic to share it. Not everything you know needs to be shared! Take a second before answering a question, or before telling a story, and pause. That little extra second of silence can help you ask if it's something that fits within the overall strategy of your conversation. If it is, share away. If it's not, that little pause can protect you.

So those are my three places where a litte silence can go a long way. How do you use silence strategically?