One time at a business networking event, I met a veteran who’d recently started his own business.
“Why did you leave the army?”
“I was in the navy and sustained an injury from a helicopter crash.”
“Wow! So tell me about one of your most exciting missions.”
His eyes gleamed as he recounted the time he raced speed boats in Colombia chasing down drug lords. It was a Netflix binge-worthy moment!
A third person was lurking nearby so we made room for him to join our circle of two. When I introduced the two guests, the newcomer immediately started talking.
“Oh, my brother-in-law’s cousin was in the army, in the second Gulf war….” Just like that, the newcomer snatched the spotlight away from the veteran to shine it on himself. The veteran’s face dropped and the light switched off in his eyes. Meanwhile, the newcomer was on fire, completely oblivious to what just happened.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a salesperson?
This is the question I have asked thousands of non-salespeople. Their answer?
Pushy. Selfish. Talks too much.
To them, salespeople were a special breed of people, the noisiest (perhaps also smelliest) people at any work party. But if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, both you and I know that the secret to successful selling is getting the prospect to talk so you can identify their needs.
But how do you get salespeople to talk less? And why do salespeople talk too much?
Getting high off your own supply
One of my absolute favourite quotes from a former boss “he gets high off his own supply”. He was referring to how a person loved the sound of his own voice.
You could probably count quite a few times when a salesperson chewed your ear off or interrupted you. But let’s look at the science of why this happens.
In this Harvard study, participants in a trial were given the choice to answer one of three questions: a self-related question; a question related to another person; or a fact-related question. Each choice had a monetary pay-off and talking about yourself generally paid out the least. The participants were also wired up to a brain scanner so the scientists could measure their behaviour as well as their neural patterns – they were looking for which decisions activated the brain’s reward system.
The results showed that people found talking about themselves intrinsically more rewarding compared to talking about others or facts.
Talking about oneself is worth significantly more than talking about others or facts.
People were willing to forego an average of 17% less money just so they could talk about themselves!
In a further experiment, participants were given the opportunity to answer questions in private, where no one could see or hear their answers, and in the company of at least one other person. In both private and in-company scenarios, individuals valued talking about themselves over talking about others. Interestingly, self-reflection in private wasn’t nearly as rewarding as talking about the self in front of others.
Introspecting about yourself and sharing that information with others are both independently rewarding
Now it makes sense why the newcomer in the first story stole that conversation and why salespeople talk too much; talking about yourself, alone or in front of others, feels as good as winning money or eating chocolate cake.
How mindfulness can help salespeople talk less and listen more
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness, but let me provide a definition now so we’re on the same page as you continue reading. It is the ability to be aware of the present moment without judgement, being aware of where your attention is. Most of us get carried away by our emotions. It’s not weakness, but an automatic response. And while mindfulness certainly doesn’t stop you feeling the desire to start talking about yourself, it does change your relationship with your emotions.
Researchers found mindfulness enhances your ability to regulate your emotions by enabling you to exercise more executive control. When you can observe your desire to interrupt and make the conversation all about you from a place of non-judgemental awareness, you create a gap, instead of getting caught up in emotion and basic desires. How can mindfulness help salespeople? In that gap you have a choice; you can give in to, delay or let go of the desire to talk.
Awareness is the first step
Next time you’re in a conversation and have that burning desire to talk, simply be aware of that feeling.
Watch it, don’t judge it, because then you’re not listening to the other person. And then, instead of getting swept away by that tug to talk, you have the choice to let it go.
It sounds a lot easier than it is. Noticing, being observant is like any other skill; with practise, you get better.
Let customers get their fix
Your ego has a forceful desire to rise up and take the lead. In other words, to look good. Resist the desire to shine by being aware of the emotions causing you to do so. Let your prospect have the spotlight. When you let them talk more, they get that feel-good kick and they associate that feeling with you. It builds trust and they’ll listen more openly to whatever you eventually have to say.
Are you trying to get your salespeople to talk less and listen more?
It’s not just salespeople who talk a lot. Give us a break! It’s just that we’re frequently in situations that trigger the survival mechanism, which cripples executive functions.
Please like and share this article. Awareness is the first step to behavioural change.
If you’d like to hear more on the principles of Mindful Selling, you can book me to deliver a keynote at your sales conference. Take a look at my Keynotes page for more and get in touch. I’d love to chat.