Silence — or at least some amount of it — is golden when it comes to sales calls.

You’ve almost certainly heard that it pays to listen to buyers more than you talk, but new research analyzing more than half a million sales discovery calls backs up the notion with hard data.

Top sales performers — meaning those who are the most adept at moving the sale to the next step — speak 46% of the time and let their buyers have the other 54%. Average performers speak a lot more — 68% of the time. And the worst performers are the gabbiest, speaking 72% of the time during a call.

Breaking down the calls

These figures were developed by the sales software provider Gong.io, and published in collaboration with SalesLoft in a paper entitled “Discovery Call Benchmark Report.” Gong.io used proprietary analytics to break down 519,291 calls made over conference platforms like GoToMeeting.

Of course, being silent part of the time doesn’t mean sitting there like a Sphinx. The data also shows that the most successful calls are those that bounce around like a tennis match, with frequent switches of speaker from salesperson to buyer and back. Specifically, average success rates hovered around 50% when there were 2 speaker switches per minute. But success rates rose sharply, to above 75%, when the number of speaker switches increased toward 4.

This means it’s OK to speak for no more than 30 seconds before doing something to elicit a comment from your buyer. And it’s even better if you can hold yourself to 15 seconds before inviting — or stimulating — the other person to talk.

Stopwatch drill

Now, nobody expects you to put a timer on all your sales calls, shutting yourself down awkwardly after a certain number of seconds irrespective of sense. (Although it might be useful to try a stopwatch drill on a few calls, just to get a benchmark.)

And remember that the ideal percentage of talking vs. listening — 46% to 54% — is an average. You may speak more than that at certain points in the call. This may be the case, for instance, near the end when you’ve done your discovery and are now suggesting what might come next.

But with those caveats in mind, it still clearly pays to watch how much you talk — and be aware of zipping your lip to let the buyer reveal what he or she feels and needs.

 

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