Mastering The Sales Discipline To Shut Up

Jim Blasingame

Contrary to what you've heard, selling is the oldest profession, because “In the beginning” the serpent sold the apple to Eve. Everybody knows that. You might say she bought wholesale and then sold the apple retail to Adam. And as we now know, that was one expensive transaction.  

A key characteristic that separates humans from the other animals identified in Genesis is ego. And while ego can be a beneficial motivator in selling professionally, in order to do that successfully, we must do something that’s in direct conflict with our ego — we have to let someone else talk more than us.

So, when you’re on a sales call – face-to-face with a prospect – what do you do? Do you unload the dump truck of stuff about products, pricing, etc. that your company installed in your head? If that’s your answer, your professional selling career is doomed.

Of course, it’s your job to deliver the company’s message. But if you talk about your stuff before knowing what the customer wants/needs/desires/expects, you've parked the cart perilously in front of the horse. And in the Age of the Customer, all that does is annoy prospects and customers at best and make them angry at worst.

Successful professional salespeople are gold miners. And the gold they seek is in the heads of prospects. But since everybody should know that, why do so many salespeople spend so much time in front of so many prospects running their mouths? It’s that conflict thing again. Sadly, the mouth — not the ear — is the ego’s tool of choice. 

The Blasingame Mint has once again struck a new axiom and a handy acronym to go with it: Shut Up - Listen - Sell! SULS. Tattoo those four letters on the palm of your hand, because the most crucial discipline for any professional salesperson is to be able to SHUT UP. 

Here are four important steps to remember when practicing SULS.

1. Keep Them Talking 

Even prospects who aren't egomaniacs – like most of us salespeople – like to talk about their business and what keeps them up at night. Remember, the gold you seek is in their head. You need time to mine that gold, which can only happen when words are coming out of the prospect’s mouth – not yours.

2. Maintain Eye Contact 

The most valuable thing prospects can do for you is talk about what's on their mind. But nothing stops this valuable flow of golden information quicker than when it appears that you’re not listening. And here’s a gender tip for guys: To a much greater degree than men, women prospects will hold it against you more if you don’t maintain eye contact when they’re trying to hand you gold.

3. Concentrate and focus

Concentrate on your prospect’s every word. Focus on what their body language is telling you. Neither of these can happen when you’re talking. The next tip will make this tip easier.

4. Wait Three Seconds

While concentrating and focusing, add the discipline to wait three seconds after you think the prospect is finished talking before you say anything. Three seconds is plenty of time to compose your next question or comment based on what you just heard. More importantly, you’ll be less likely to interrupt, which is the #2 cardinal sin of selling. Guess what #1 is.

This will be on the test: Successful professional selling is more profitable and more fun when the prospect does most of the talking.

Write this on a rock ... Tattoo this on the palm of your hand: SULS.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

Print page