What a Few Seconds of Strategic Silence Can Do for You

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We have all heard that “silence is golden,” but as advisers, do we routinely use silence as part of our presentations?

Now, you may be thinking: I stop talking every time I ask a question and patiently wait and then listen to the client’s answer. This may be true, but it’s not exactly what I am referring to. What I mean is to pause or slow down with your dialogue and truly think about what you want to convey—what you really want the listener to hear—rather than just rambling on with hopes that what you are saying is understood. It’s what I refer to as “the power of the pause.”

Let’s take a look at what a few seconds of strategic silence can do for you.

Pausing for Direction

During one of my group coaching role play sessions, I noticed some advisers were nervously searching for something to say, trying to fill every moment with a question, statement, fact or story. What they didn’t realize was that they were just filling up the conversation with idle chit-chat. By doing so, they were not getting the prospect (we were role playing) to come to a place of understanding regarding the products and services that were being recommended.

So I created the “five seconds of silence exercise,” where the adviser had to pause for five seconds each time prior to speaking. Each round of this exercise lasted five minutes. If the adviser broke the five-seconds-of-silence rule, he or she was immediately eliminated from the game. The rounds continued until one adviser, the winner, remained. The purpose of the exercise was to give the adviser the necessary time to strategically think about in what direction he or she wanted the conversation to go, and what type of dialogue would work best. After a few rounds, each adviser realized that pausing, even for five seconds, could be just enough time to make a course correction.

Pausing for Pace

A conversation is similar to a dance; there is always one person who leads and one who follows. If you feel you are losing the listener because you are speaking too quickly, then it’s time to pause. Simply slow down and try phrasing a question like this: “So … (wait two seconds—one thousand one, one thousand two, then continue) … why do you think that is?” Typically what happens next is that the listener will match your pace and slow down as they answer.

Pausing for Impact

One of the best times to pause is when you are about to close the sale. The two or three seconds of silence after starting a question (such as in the preceding example) creates curiosity about what you are going to say next. “Well? … (again, wait two seconds, then slowly continue) … what do you think is the best course of action?” Then sit tight and wait for the response.

Perfecting the Pause

There is no hard-and-fast rule on perfecting the pause, but if you find yourself disconnected from your client or prospect during a presentation, you will be well advised to let a few seconds of appropriate silence enter into the conversation.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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