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Babette Black Burdick


Take this from a former market research moderator. In the trade we call it the "pregnant pause." You know, you ask the question and just plain stop right there. Respondents have "fear of dead air" which is not very profitable if you are in radio. We've all been brought up that this is a no-no.

The pregnant pause also includes your prospect's finally responding to this initial void (after you at least count to one thousand one) at which point you counter with another pregnant pause, except this time you make some sort of response like "Hmmm" or "huh", etc. They've gotta jump right in and fill that void with even more good information. It's one of the most powerful tools for building rapport either in person or over the phone. But it's a tough skill to acquire.

And I suspect that some prospects are aware of how to use "the void" and actually use the seller's fear of silence (and jumping right in with oral diarrhea) as a means of flushing out the second tier rep and giving them a "we are not interested" response.



Absolutely spot on. One of the best quotes I heard related to this is "Whoever speaks first looses."

Everytime I am tempted to open my mouth after proposing a question I think of this. :)

The truth is though that it can be exceptionally hard for new sales people to pick this up because the gift for gab that they had (which becomes detrimental for sales people as they advance) is one of the reason they were "told" that they would "good" at sales.

Fred Barnes

Silence is VERY hard for salespeople. I coach salespeople to give great sales presentations. One of the primary ways a salesperson can increase their credibility with any audience is by learning to use the power of the pause.

As I work with salespeople (on camera)... and get them to lower the pace of their speaking, and add 2, 3, even 4-second pauses (to let the audience think), it is remarkable how much more believable they become.

It also allows the salesperson time (during the pause), to do some thinking -- and maybe some adjusting of their presentation. If you are zipping along at a million miles an hour, this will never happen. Pause, Pause, Pause... it is one of the keys to successful connection with your audience!

Jim Janosik

Two ears, one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.

It's even better when you ask questions where the prospect can "educate" you about her industry or experiences. As a young professional I take this approach because people have an innate urge to teach and share information with someone that might still be a little green (though they really aren't).

Troy Bingham - Power Dialer

I am reminded of a sales call several years ago, when I had given the proposed amount of the deal, there was silence. I knew the old addage of "he who speaks first loses" so I stayed silent. 45 minutes later, the prospect asked..."so, what do you suggest I do". I had won. No one would have believed it but I happened to catch the whole thing on tape. I used it for trainin purposes for years.

Kent Blumberg


Great article! I am working on a speech about the Power of Silence for my Toastmasters group and found your article. It is a brilliant summary of what is wrong with many sales approaches, and how to make it right.


Sarah Lee Beaven

Hi Jill,
I love this post and agree with the other readers' comments. You ARE spot on!
Having spent years as a sales consultant, I was definitely nervous with the silence as I was honing my skills...nervous chatter all over the place. It was a painful journey to finally learn how to stop fidgeting verbally.
The lesson was really brought home when I took acting classes that I learned first hand about the value and impact of silence. I aced an audition by remaining silent for 2 minutes before delivering my last line. The director told me he was spellbound and delighted because it showed a calm confidence that he was looking for in an actor. I believe our customers want the same in a consultant...calm confidence.
Once I experienced that, silence became easy and got more and more comfortable because I realized that the person I was talking to needed time to let the words "land" and have time to respond.

Another tip that evolved: Tell the person you are talking to that you are going to give them a minute or so to think about the question...thereby setting the stage for silence.

For example: "What's important to you?" followed with:
"Take your time."
I remain silent and relaxed as I hold the space for them to think.

My hat is off to Troy for the 45 minute silence. Amazing!

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