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The Magic of Silence

By practicing tactical patience, you will be able to connect to your prospect and fulfill their insatiable human need to feel important. These two discovery calls show the impact of letting your prospect do the talking.

What Is Tactical Patience?

I read an article the other day by Bill Murphy, Jr. In it, he outlines several habits you can create in order to elevate your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). While all the habits are great, one, in particular, stood out to me—tactical patience.

The definition of tactical patience is the intentional delaying of a response. This can occur in an asynchronous (think “one-way” communication such as email, social, etc.) or synchronous (think “bi-directional” exchanges such as telephone or in-person) way.

The two following discovery call examples showcase the power of delaying a response in order to engage your prospect.

Don’t Answer Your Own Questions

I was listening to a recording with a sales manager of one of his salespeople conducting a discovery call.

The salesperson spoke 80% of the time and it was apparent that the prospect couldn’t get a word in. In fact, after the salesperson would ask a question, he’d immediately follow with another question. The prospect couldn’t even answer the first question!

At one point, the salesperson asked a phenomenal open-ended question which was obviously causing the prospect to “think” about his reply. For a moment, silence kicked in.

Before the prospect could thoughtfully respond, the salesperson filled the silence by essentially answering his own question. I asked the sales manager if there was an opportunity with this prospect. He said no. I could have guessed that.

Let Them Do The Talking

Different client. Same coaching scenario. As we listened to the recording, the salesperson spoke maybe 30% of the time. He asked a brilliant question to open up the conversation and the prospect spoke for the next 15 minutes.

The key was that the salesperson intentionally waited for a response. He didn’t let the silence bother him.

And magic occurred—the prospect started speaking because the salesperson gave them the chance to speak. I asked the sales manager the same question as I did in the “bad version”—is this an opportunity?  His reply—absolutely “yes”!

The difference between these scenarios is really simple. The salesperson intentionally delayed responding when the inevitable silence occurred during the conversation.

By delaying his response, he didn’t:

  • Over-explain or start pitching.
  • Talk over the prospect.
  • Introduce another question without the first questions being answered.

He also locked into the five most important questions in every interaction with another human:

  • Do I like you?
  • Do you listen to me?
  • Do you make me feel important?
  • Do you get me and my problems?
  • Do I trust and believe you?

Sometimes Silence Speaks Volumes

By practicing tactical patience, the second salesperson was able to connect to the prospect and activate the prospect’s insatiable human need to feel important.

The first salesperson? Well, he triggered his own need to feel important by talking too much.

This resulted in him losing the opportunity. Sometimes you send the strongest message by being quiet during the conversation. Message Matters.


The Improvised Sales Intelligence™️ Book of Play gives you the tools, tactics, and techniques to become a more effective and agile communicator in spontaneous sales conversations. GET THE FREE DOWNLOAD HERE.

About the author

Keith Lubner

Keith Lubner

Keith Lubner is Chief Strategy Officer at Sales Gravy and acts as an advisor,…

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