Silence Speaks Volumes

Sales Tips for the Reluctant Salesperson
Silence demonstrates that you’re more about serving people than selling them.

Vendors aren’t the only guys out there selling. JHC readers may not work for medical products companies, but they have plenty of customers – administrators, all the people who use the products for which they contract, and the vendors with whom they negotiate and implement contracts. Their credibility is on the line every day. Sales coach Brian Sullivan works with salespeople and sales executives from medical products manufacturers and distributors. But he’s got something to say to contracting professionals as well.

Myth No. 1:
Teaching customers is more important than learning
While your thoughts and opinions are important, they are not nearly as important as the thoughts and the opinions of the clinicians and staffers to whom you are trying to sell your supply chain services. Before you ever meet with such customers, you already know what you know. (Please excuse the Yogi Berra-ism while I make my point.) Do you believe that learning something from them is important? If so, how much can you learn while you’re talking? (Not much!) Remember that to be PRECISE means saying only what the customer wants to hear. You cannot do this unless you know what the customer is thinking and feeling. So love their thoughts and opinions more than yours. If you do this, you will find that they will often love your thoughts and opinions even more than you do.

Myth No. 2:
Silence shows weakness
Make silence part of your “sales call.” Silence shows strength, wisdom and confidence. Some of the most influential people in history have used it as a tool to stir action. Consider in silence everything your internal customer says, and don’t respond until you are sure that what you are going to say will be exact and sharply defined. While pondering your response, don’t talk. Just think in silence until you feel confident that what you say next will be pure poetry.

Believe me, I understand just how difficult this can be. Silence for me used to be the equivalent of the Chinese water torture. You see, I have a God-given ability to speak too much. I get so pumped in a sales call that I sometimes find myself making too many assumptions, too many statements, and feeling the need to fill every moment of silence with the painful sound of my own voice. Trust me, I can inflict pain when my sales game is not “on.”

No interruptions
Have you ever interrupted somebody and said something that you wish you could take back two seconds later? We all have. To prevent myself from interrupting the person I am speaking to, and to prevent myself from saying something stupid, I have a quirky little system that makes it easier for me to let people finish what they are saying.

I wait until the person that I am speaking with completely finishes talking, and then I identify the last word he said. I pause for a moment and repeat that word in my mind. This exercise helps me focus on what the person is saying and forces me to listen until the very end. Then – and only then – am I allowed to think about what was said, work out my response, and then use the least amount of words possible to respond. This prevents me from interrupting people, and while on the job, prevents me from cutting off customers.

Practice makes perfect
The way we listen at home is even more important than the way we listen at work. Do you want to know if you are a good listener? Ask your husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, son or daughter what they think. When you ask them, focus on their response. Drop everything you are doing, look them in the eye, and listen to every word they say. While they are telling you the way they feel, DON’T INTERRUPT them. Let them finish talking, repeat their last word in your mind, and then take a few seconds to think about what they said. For this exercise, you need not respond when they are through. Just smile, maybe give them a little nod, and be done with it. You’ll be amazed at how difficult it is to not interrupt.

Practice these skills, and use them while serving your supply-chain customers. Try it with the people who report to you as well. You will be communicating in a way that shows them you care more about serving them than selling them.

About the Author

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan, CSP teaches salespeople and leaders how to influence more people in his PRECISE Business Development Programs. Sign up for a FREE Online Training Module on How to Become a Master Questioner by going to Or visit him at
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