Sales trainers and professionals have said it for years. The best sales people talk less during their encounters with customers than others do. They get the prospect to share their thoughts and concerns. They recognize that the sale isn’t made by their perfect words as much as by the feelings and thoughts of the prospect.
While this information is well-known, and most anyone with a sales background is nodding while they are reading, the reality is, most salespeople talk too much – their word count is too high.
I know you are thinking, you aren’t a sales person.
While I disagree with that in many ways (here are some of my reasons), let’s put that aside, and just talk about how we can apply this idea of word count to our work as a leader and professional, shall we?
Here are just three situations in which you may frequently find yourself:
- In a coaching session
- In a team meeting
- In a negotiation
It is likely that you view all three of these situations as important (rightly so), and if you take your role seriously, you probably spend time preparing for these situations (I hope so).
Unfortunately, the longer you prepare, and the more you think about these situations, the more likely you are to:
- Talk first.
- Be concerned when the other party(ies) aren’t talking – and fill the empty air by talking more.
- Be more convinced of your opinions (again, leading you to talk more).
Meaning, you will do more (too much) of the talking.
Like the salesperson, you will find your most successful outcomes in these situations will be when you talk less than your natural inclination.
So, how do you solve it?
1. Prepare thought-provoking questions. Don’t just prepare your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, prepare questions. If you have great questions going in, you improve the likelihood that you get the other person talking (and sooner).
2. Ask those questions early. It’s not enough to have good questions, you have to ask them. Ask them early. Not rapid fire, but one at a time, using them to guide your understanding of the other person’s perspective.
3. Ask for feedback. In some of these situations, you can ask someone to give you feedback on how much (and when) you did the talking. Make sure the person you ask understands your purpose and is willing to help.
4. Get a count. Feedback is great, but the numbers don’t lie. If the situation allows, ask others if you can record the meeting. If so, once you have a recording, you can have the conversation transcribed very inexpensively. Then, you can know exactly what the word count – and timing – was.
What’s the Goal?
The ultimate goal is a successful meeting, with outcomes that bring engagement, in both the process and true agreement for the next steps. When you are talking less, those are more likely to occur. While the situation and relationships play a role, shoot for talking 50% or less of the time.
Get your word count down and your results will go up.