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Yes, I said: Shut Up!
How often have you found yourself verbally wandering when addressing a group of people? Have you ever spoken words you knew were wrong as they were leaving your lips destined for someone’s ears? Have you ever told a joke in mixed company that fell flat to the floor? I have, and I’m here to tell you to SHUT UP!
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” M. Twain.
Your mouth is the most powerful piece of “equipment you own” with the most significant impact on your success. Period. End of story. Nothing else comes close. Disagree with me? Wait, that’s not quite right. You can speak, and that starts with the brain. Form a thought, mull it over, and say it. There are a lot of things that go into speech and being understood by others. But first, you must understand the audience and, more importantly, your ability to relate to them. That’s not an easy job, and it starts well before you’re standing in front of them with your microphone in hand.
It starts with your ability to gather all your thoughts about your business and then, based on those words and ideas, create your image. Website, sales materials, email content, signatures, etc. Then all that needs to be carefully crafted to reflect your style and the appearance you want to portray. Now you have to be able to take those things and deliver them to a prospective client in the best way you can. See how vital speech becomes? It allows you to take the abstract and make it concrete.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -Robert Burns.
Can you verbally “paint a picture” to someone interested in learning about your business? Can you transport them to their wedding day, or are you selling music and gear? I’m not passing a value judgment on the latter, but I’ll tell you this: gear is the last thing I mention, and many times, I don’t mention it at all. I mean, you wouldn’t explain to someone that you use a Shure microphone, would you? Then why do we need to tell clients about equipment at all? Some may want to know, and if they ask, I’ll say to them, but I spend most of my sales time inquiring about what they want, how it looks, and what it smells and sounds like. Do they have any crazy Uncles? Do they have any family traditions? How long have you wondered about this day? Tell me about YOU.
So, how important is it to know what you’re saying? How important is it to be targeted for each particular client? How important is it to ask probing questions? Very important.
I wrote sales training materials for Union Carbide Corporation that was, and still are, being used worldwide. But, first, I had to meet with the Sales Trainers at UC headquarters and listen to them talk about how difficult it is to keep everyone updated on the latest sales information and refreshed in the curriculum. A friend and I collaborated on how to accomplish this goal, and we created a 6 CD set of sales training information and created “role-playing” segments that helped to keep people focused on what steps to take as the sales call progressed. Well, let me tell you, a lot is going on in each sales call, and these are multi-million dollar meetings. Did I learn a lot? Yep. Most importantly, I learned to SHUT UP when the price is presented. Why? I’ll explain in my next column, or you can contact me at
Did you know that most sales are made after the 6th contact? Did you know that most “sales” people stop calling on clients on the 5th?
In the meantime, don’t be hesitant to keep quiet. When calm, you can listen for essential words from your prospective clients. It’s called “keyword” listening and can help you understand what is not being said directly. It’s fun to practice this.
Nest time: BATNA! (What the heck is this??!)