When in Sales, Learn to Just Shut Up

Sales Pitch
Sales Pitch
Sometimes in sales, you just need to shut up.

During sales training with Procter and Gamble many years ago, my trainer told me to “shut up” after asking for the order.

I remember thinking that it sounded simple. But when the person across the table from me sat quietly after my next presentation, the silence was painful. I broke down after about 30 seconds and asked a question.

Even after making hundreds of sales presentations over the years, I continue to find it difficult to just shut up and wait for a response.

Why is it important for your audience to respond first?

  • I’m not sure why this has become a generally held belief, but the presenter communicates weakness when s/he keeps talking after the end of a sales presentation.
  • There is a legitimate need to get feedback that you can react to.

I’ve heard people fill the void with many options:

  • Hearing no objections, sign here.
  • Any questions?
  • Apparently my presentation was so good, I’ve left you speechless.
  • What do you think?
  • What do I need to do to close this sale?

That last one was the worst approach, since it begged the potential buyer to ask for discounts and concessions.

Do you think any of these were effective? They weren’t. At best they were awkward and made it evident that the speaker was nervous and searching for approval.

The best option I’ve used when I believed that I absolutely had to talk:


“So” turns the talk arrow back to the person you’re presenting to without providing additional information and not too much sense of insecurity.

If there’s no response at this point, I suggest you start packing up your materials. After a minute, which will seem like a long time, say something similar to:

I look forward to talking with you again.

If there’s no immediate response at this point, you need to leave.

If the potential buyer hasn’t started talking by now, s/he is playing games. Call the bluff and leave. You’re not going to make the sale that day anyway, and it shows that you’re too important to play games.

There is one exception to this advice.

I need to point out that there are a few people who are too inexperienced or too insecure to know how to respond. If you conclude this is the issue, my advice may be a little harsh. An option, not to be used often:

Are there aspects of the presentation that I can walk you though in more detail?

No response at this point generates the same action. Leave.

Of course, leaving without a specific response will require more discipline (and better training) than just being quiet.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.


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