Business Development 101: Silence Can Be Your Friend

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In the business development world, the world silence usually has a negative connotation, but when you’re pitching it can be a good thing.

People are naturally uncomfortable with silence during a phone conversation with a new acquaintance. When they encounter it, they don’t know what to do…so they just start talking.

Business Development

Often there are valuable pieces of information that prospects hold close to their chest. An example might be how interested they are in buying your product or service. Just like on a car lot, they might not want to seem too interested to maintain bargaining leverage. Other times there’s questions that are just awkward to ask directly.

You can use the silence disposition to your advantage in these type of scenarios. Purposefully directed silence can prompt prospects to reveal what they’re thinking….

How to Do This

The first order of business is determining which piece of information you’re trying to derive. Their interest in the product? What’s their the budget like? Do they think you sound handsome?

Once you’ve defined this, the tactic is pretty straightforward. Intentionally pick a point in the conversation to make a grand, leading statement directed at that piece of information followed by abrupt silence. You should know exactly when you’re going to do this before the pitch even begins and lead up to it in a logical manner.

This is best demonstrated by example:

What you want to know: Whether your offering is truly in their budget

An example of How to Derive This In Your Phone Pitch: Spend 5 minutes outlining the benefits of the offering and the various features of the product. Then drop a purposeful silence statement:

“Our partners have been so happy with our offering. (Deliberate slight pause) They can’t believe they get X,Y, and Z for ONLY $5000 which is well within their budget.” STOP TALKING HERE

….now you wait until they say something. Even if there is 10 seconds of silence, continue to wait. Eventually the other side will show their cards and you’ll get the answer that you’re looking for either directly or indirectly.

Directly: “Oh well $5,000 isn’t even in our budget”

Indirectly: “Wait just $5,000. That’s great”

This is a much better way to determine how the answer to your question than at the end of the call saying “So what do you think” or “So what’s your budget.”

Coaxing Confirmation

Another benefit the previous technique can inspire is that it can prompt verbal confirmation of a belief you’re advocating for. Say you’re trying to get them to admit your product provides great results. You might say something like this:

Me: “Our product has resulted in 3X the number of user signups since implementation…and we think that is pretty awesome” (Silence)

Them: “Yeah that’s great” or “Wow”

Making them speak positively about your offering can have a powerful effect on their perception. Ideally you’re able get a prospect to reveal what they’re thinking and coax confirmation at the same time.

It takes awhile to get comfortable with the idea of inserting silence into conversations because we’re naturally averse to it. But when you recognize the value when used correctly and then intentionally plan it, the effects can be powerful. Next time you’re pitching give it a try. See if they show their cards.

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