Three Ways to Hack a Sales Conversation

The traditional definition of growth hacking involves doing more with less but still driving an increase in performance. In sales, we love to measure usage of a prospect’s name, keyword mentions, and even conversation length, however there are variables that can be exploited as “hacks” order to garner immediate returns. These include both verbal and non-verbal behaviors that can be adjusted on the fly, such as tone, conversation structure, mirroring, and even silence.

Always start on a positive note

Every rep has likely (hopefully) heard this before. Of course, no one wants a negative salesperson. Starting out positive is infectious, and sets the tone for the entire conversation.

First impressions really do matter, and you want to appear positively and friendly from the start.  As humans, we are prediction machines. The sequence in which our brain receives information about a person impacts how future information is received. By starting on a positive note, you and your ideas are instantly received better in the minds of your prospects.

Begin your calls with a compliment, why you’re excited to be talking, some words of encouragement, or a generally positive statement. Negativity, especially at the beginning of a call immediately creates a wall between you and your prospect that you must spend the rest of the call overcoming. Positivity on the other hand establishes you as an enthusiastic, friendly, and credible resource.

Another helpful strategy for setting a positive tone comes from the Wilson Learning model – it advises that salespeople start out with a “Purpose Process Payoff” introduction every time they meet with a customer. Repeat the reason for the meeting (purpose), describe how the meeting will go (process) and ask the customer if that is acceptable to them (payoff). This interaction brings the customer along gently and makes them invested in pacing, rather than abruptly launching into a pitch, asking questions, or spending too much time on small talk.

Mirror your prospect

RingDNA Sales Conversation HacksPsychologists say that we instinctively trust those who are like ourselves, whether it’s in personality, interests, or even habits and mannerisms.  This includes factors like explicitly expressed interests or intents, as well as nonverbal cues like body language or even clothing.

A Harvard Business Review study found that salespeople who used mirroring had a drastically higher close rate. In the experiment, salespeople who didn’t use mirroring closed 62%, whereas those who did closed at 79%. By mirroring your prospect’s tone of voice, energy levels, and body language you can build a trusting relationship and increase the chances of making a sale.

The Harvard Business Review covered a psychological experiment in which researchers tested the impact of mirroring on reps.Salespeople who didn’t use mirroring achieved a 62% close rate, while those who mirrored their prospects had an astonishing 79% close rate. The study also found the prospects who were mirrored rated the salesperson more positively, which would likely help with customer retention and upsells.

On the phone, mirroring is harder because you have less options,Even without nonverbal cues, you can still read and match your prospect’s tone of voice, the pacing of their speech, and excitement level. For example, if your prospect answers the phone and sounds more laid back, don’t jump in with exceedingly high energy. This may immediately overwhelm and turn off the prospect. Likewise, don’t greet an energetic caller with an overly calm tone, as it may frustrate them. Furthermore, match the pace of talking. For instance, you don’t want to speak and move quickly while the person on the other end is taking their time, you’ll come off as rushed and disinterested.

Sometimes you just need to be quiet

Silence is a powerful, underused technique. Humans are naturally uncomfortable with silence, especially in the presence of people we don’t know very well. As a sales rep, you can leverage this.

On any given call, you should be collecting just as much information as you are providing. Many salespeople forget this, I’ve actually seen reps use leading questions just so they could set themselves up to talk more instead of actually get information. Reps are so focused on talking and selling, they might as well just be talking to themselves.

After your prospect finishes answering a question, wait at least seven seconds before you begin to speak again. You’ll be surprised to find just how painful the silence is for the person on the other end of the phone. This is especially useful for prospects who are holding back, not providing information, or are generally unmotivated to share. The awkwardness of silence will compel them to fill the empty space with more information. For prospects who have no problem talking, the silence will help them develop more complete, thoughtful answers.

Silence can also make you seem more empathetic, as it allows space for the prospect to actually be heard. Instead of talking over them (like every other salesperson they have experienced) the silence gives them open space to express themselves. When they have finished, directly address their response before continuing with your conversation so they know they were acknowledged.

About the Author

Zack Cronin

Zack is a Sales Content Specialist at RingDNA. He is passionate about solving everyday problems and increasing performance through innovative technology. Zack has worked directly with sales teams and understands the challenges they face on a daily basis. When he's not developing and sharing knowledge at RingDNA, he loves being outdoors, hiking, and coffee.

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