While there are dozens of strategies, techniques and tactics that can influence negotiations in your favour, there’s one technique that many people find particularly challenging to effectively execute, and yet, it’s very powerful when used well. This is the ‘power of silence’ and how to use it your advantage.
The problem is that feels very uncomfortable when you’re in a sales situation and you get that dead air, or silence gap. It seems as if it engulfs the whole of the sales conversation and you have an urgency to fill the gap by saying something.
Well, don’t. Silence is a very powerful weapon to use during negotiations. It does take effort and discipline to master. You do have to concentrate, but in doing so, it will help you gain more leverage.
Here’s a couple of examples of what I’m talking about …
A few years ago a colleague of mine Melinda, was in a situation whereby she needed to find a new technical support person. Her relationship with the person she had been using came to an abrupt end when he decided virtually overnight to head into the sunset on a trip of lifetime. She was left with no-one to give her the technical support she needed for her online business.
She quickly asked around and was given a referral for someone who came with glowing reports of their work. All went well with the discussion on what was required and how they would work together. The only thing to decide on was the price. The person stated that she wanted £X for her services. My colleague was horrified as the amount she’d just been quoted, which was more than three times what she’d been paying to her recent technical support person. She said, “that’s a huge amount. How can you justify that?” The response was, “those are my fees”.
My colleague replied, “but I’ve only been paying someone less than a third of what you’ve just quoted me – can you give me a better price?”. The response was – silence.
It had arrived, that very uncomfortable moment that seems to stretch on forever just happened. Melinda soon realized that she wasn’t going to get another response unless she spoke first. It also gave her time to justify in her own mind that she badly needed the service offered and to get this person, she was going to have to pay the fees she’d just been quoted. She replied, “well, if that’s what I’ve to pay then I’ll have to accept that”, and she did. That’s the power of silence in negotiations.
Another person I know was having a conversation with a journalist who’d contacted her for an article he’d like to use in his publication. She asked him to give her more details. So he went on to discuss the terms of the advertising campaign and how the article would be used. During this time, she remained silent and listened to what he had to say. Then the silent pause … before he said, “but we only have £250 in our budget to pay you”. Up to that point she had not realised there was any payment at all. By keeping silent and not jumping straight in to say, ‘of course providing you keep my details in as the author’ (which is what often happens), she’d earned an additional £250.
Here’s how to put the power of silence to use in your business:
- Become aware of silences during negotiations and the times they occur. This will get you to feel more comfortable with silence gaps and also to feel confident that you are in a place of power, rather than having to justify yourself.
- Give for 3-5 seconds before responding to a comment or statement that your prospect has made. The other person will often volunteer additional information that they wouldn’t otherwise have given to you.
- In training, coaching, or even in interview situations, this is a useful technique to use. When you’ve asked a question and the person has answered it. Sit back and allow a few moments of silence, because invariably the person will respond with a deeper thoughtful meaning to what they’d originally said.
I hope this technique is helpful for you. Use it in practice and observe the difference it makes to your business and your confidence too!