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Why Sales Reps Talk Too Much
Gerhard Gschwandtner

How many times have you noticed salespeople talking themselves right out of a sale? When other people talk too much, we notice immediately. When we talk too much, everyone else notices.

While long discussions can enhance relationships, most customers prefer salespeople who are to the point. Here are the top factors that keep sales reps from listening more than they speak:

Anxiety. People who are anxious use an avalanche of words to avoid dealing with potential conflict (such as a prospect saying no). Instead of balancing talking with listening, they believe that their wall of words will protect them from what they imagine as a threat. They often refuse to give up control of the conversation, adding a trail of words that echo the ones they've already expressed. If you're in a coaching situation, don't talk about what was said; instead, talk about the salesperson's feelings.

Lack of preparation. The less clear we are on any given subject, the more words we need to talk about the subject. Here is an eye-opening exercise: Ask a salesperson to make a presentation about your company as if you were a new prospect. Time the presentation. Next, ask the salesperson to write a concise description of your company on one page. Now read the copy at normal speed. How much time did it take? Much less. The lesson? Lack of preparation stretches the presentation.

Stress. When we are tired, we tend to ramble, and our ability to concentrate begins to decrease. Our brain responds to mental fatigue by producing more words and less meaning. The cure: Get enough sleep, eat healthful foods, and exercise regularly.

Lack of a road map. Do your salespeople have a road map for their sales calls? If not, ask them to write down the answers to three questions: What is my call objective? What information do I need to get? What information do I plan to give? Encourage your salespeople to talk less and listen more.

Failure to budget for time. Some reps get so involved in conversations that they lose track of time. Budget a specific amount of time for each call and stick to it. If you are a manager and want to save time, conduct your meeting standing up. This forces people to get to the point. If you meet with long-winded people, remind them five minutes before you plan to leave by saying, "We have another five minutes; what else do we need to cover?"

Lack of humility. Some people think that everything they say is important. When they talk, they experience a rush of good feelings, and they often fall in love with their own words. They may use catchphrases and complex language to impress customers. Don't be a "talkaholic." Stop lecturing. Turn your liability into an asset. Learn from others. Being expressive is nice; however, good relationships require us to be receptive to others.

Ineffective thinking. While some salespeople continue to hopscotch from problem to problem, others quickly get to the core of a customer's problem, solve it, and close the sale. How? They use two types of thought patterns that can cure "wordaholism": convergent thinking and divergent thinking. While convergent thinking leads to a focal point in the middle of a circle, divergent thinking radiates away from the center in every direction. Divergent thinking opens people's minds; it leads to new ideas, thoughts, and possibilities. As a result, the conversation goes on and on. Convergent thinking leads to conclusions and concrete results.

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