I have spent a lot of time during the course of my career in the sales and marketing field. What I have come to learn over the years is that many sales people share one fundamental trait: they like to talk. In fact, they love to talk. And talk. And talk. They talk so much they will take up all the oxygen in the room by talking enough for everyone inside of it.

Sometimes that ability to control a conversation can be an advantage. But, in key circumstances, talking too much can become a liability. In particular, it’s been my experience that some sales people can actually talk so much they actually talk themselves out of a sale.

I have seen this happen firsthand. I once had a sales engineer who worked for me, for example, where this happened all of the time. He would be interacting with a customer and, early on in the conversation, the customer would say something like, “Yes, let’s do it. Put me down for an order.”

But this engineer was tone deaf. He heard that “yes” as an opportunity to keep talking, and talking, and talking. Even though he had gotten the go ahead from the customer, he wanted to tell them about all the other wonderful things we could provide. He couldn’t help himself: he wanted to tell them everything!

And guess what happened? He ended up talking himself out of the sale 50% of the time-;even though he had the order already in his hot little hands! I tried to stop him talking, I really did, but he continued. It was like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. Either he would stumble into an area where he didn’t know the answer-;which means he would have to follow up with the customer-;or the customer would tell him something like: “Uh, we’ll get back to you.” He had the sale and he lost it by continuing to talk.

The point is that when it comes to making a sale, you need to find that sweet spot in terms of talking enough to get the sale, getting to “Yes” -; and then shutting up.

It’s not just sales people who do this. Imagine a scenario where you have been asked by your CEO and the board to make a presentation about a new plan you have developed. You then take weeks building your PowerPoint deck, which eventually totals 37 brilliant slides (if you do say so yourself). When the big day arrives and you begin your presentation, maybe getting as far as the fifth slide, the CEO (who has flipped through the entire deck) says: “This looks great-;let’s go ahead with this.” What a great moment-;you closed the sale!

But in the back of your mind, you’re thinking: wait, I spent weeks on this presentation. We haven’t even gotten to slide 22, which has amazing graphics. And they’re animated! So you continue to slog through your presentation-;going on and on-;not realizing that you’re draining all of the emotion out of the room. By the time you’re done, the CEO might have even changed their mind and reconsidered their support for your proposal. You had the sale and you lost it because you didn’t stop talking.

I’ve trained the executive teams that have reported to me over the years about this same principle. Whenever I would tell them, “You have the sale,” they understood that it meant they should stop talking. If they didn’t, they learned that all they could accomplish was to undo the sale of their idea or project. The result was that our communication became more efficient-;we got more yesses-;and we saved time because we got to resolutions faster. 

So when it comes to finding that sweet spot in terms of how much to talk, learn to stop talking as soon as you get the sale.

Published on: Jan 22, 2019
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