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Use Silence to Invite Clients to Share Valuable Information

SilenceDuring a seminar on communication I conducted a few months ago, I posed a question to my audience. No one was able to provide an immediate response, so I had to wait for a while until someone offered an answer.

At the end of the seminar, one of the attendees asked me how I could have remained so unperturbed by the nearly five minutes of deafening silence that followed my question. In my answer I explained that the silence lasted less than a minute—not five, as this individual and perhaps the rest of the attendees felt—and that learning to be at ease with silence can empower us to make effective use of it.

In our daily interactions with clients, occasionally we find ourselves in situations when there is silence in the conversation and the pause(s) feel agonizingly lengthy. Silence can make anyone awfully uncomfortable, coercing people to fill the air with words. Silence often frightens us because its emptiness feels idle, boring, unproductive and scary. Especially in our Western culture we are prone to think of silence as the absence of something, a gap that needs to be swiftly filled, as it feels odd and empty.

Contrary to our perception, silence is instead very rich with meaning once we let it speak to us. Think of the last time you experienced a period of silence during a client meeting. Recall the uneasiness you faced and the quick dash you made to fill the silence gap with words. You are not alone. Industry research revealed that just after 2 to 3 second after posing a question, the average individual engaged in some sort of client sale/interaction, restates her question and proceeds to answering it herself or changing the topic. This is due to the fear of facing a silent pause.

Let silence become your powerful ally, not your enemy. Silence temporarily quiets our ego enabling us to focus on the core of our issues in the present moment. It fosters introspection, which in turn leads to clarity of mind and to a mental expansion that enables ideas to spring within us and come to life. During a client meeting, silence can provide a golden opportunity to mindfully listen and wordlessly invite that person to fill “your silence gap” with valuable information that may enable you to get more business or assets. Remember that your client or prospect may loath silence as much as you do. Consequently, when facing your silent pause he or she may volunteer information that he or she would have otherwise kept to himself.

Silence can make you more effective, as it forces you to implement mindful listening, the foundation of effective communication, which nourishes both the speaker and the listener. During the course of a conversation with a client or prospect there are opportunities when you can strategically use silence to your advantage. For example, after posing the question, “What are the most important challenges our firm could help you address?” keep silent for a couple of moments to allow the prospect time to answer. After the answer, extending your silence a few more seconds will likely prompt her to further articulate on her answer and provide additional important information.

A well-placed silent pause can enable your clients to experience some specific insights, understanding or revelations that may not manifest during traditional verbal exchanges. In life, the answers to any of our questions always dwell within us, and most of the times silence rather than ongoing chatter is all we need to find an answer.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.


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Information Overload and Content Marketing

Organized MindIn his book, The Organized Mind, Montreal neuroscientist Daniel Levitin posits that we now consume the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of information a day—five times what we consumed back in 1986. Unfortunately our brains still have the same limited processing capacity.

This may help explain why we’re exhausted after spending a day online, even if most of that day is spent looking at pictures of cats.

A few things are at play here. The advent of the Internet has given us instant access to information—no more waking up to the morning newspaper, hitting up the local library, or waiting for the nightly news. Missed your favorite radio show? No matter, it is waiting for you. The concept of time, namely its passing, ceases to exist in the realm of the Internet. The Internet is always, always present—both in ubiquity and in tense. It is now.

And boy, do we love it. Not only do humans have a natural thirst for knowledge but we are hard-wired for novelty, and all of this online information is hitting that pleasure center and leaving us insatiably hungry for more.

And with demand comes supply.

Enter stage left: content marketing.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, which we found on Google (via a search that took a slothful 0.38 seconds to perform), content marketing is defined as:

“The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

People want information that tells them who you are, what you do, and why they should trust you. At that point, maybe then they’ll part with their hard-earned sheckles in your direction. Creating content that delivers this information is a great approach. It combines the technology of the times with the demands of the day.

But maybe you’re starting to see the potential catch inherent in the plan.

As so many businesses have embarked upon a content marketing strategy, surfers of the web have gotten exactly what they asked for—a metric ton of information.

In fact, more information than they know what to do with.

There is so much information that supply has now arguably surpassed demand. And while technology might be operating in the future, our ability to actually process all of this information is still stuck in the Stone Age. We’re not very advanced machines.

But there’s no going home. Now that we’ve been given exactly what we want, there’s no going back. As a business, you can’t simply stop producing information (the cost and devaluing of this information is a discussion for another time).

So in a space flooded with information, what are some ways to navigate content marketing without running yourself ragged and inundating your readers?

  1. Think it through. What kind of content are you producing? Is it directly related to your product or service, or only tangentially so? While informing your readers and establishing yourself as a trustworthy source are important aspects of content marketing, conversion is essential. If your content is not converting visitors into leads, you need to re-evaluate your strategy. A good approach is to use your content to teach the value of your product or service.
  2. Produce quality over quantity. It may seem counterintuitive, what with the sheer amount of content you have to fight with to be seen, but by and large, good content performs better than more content. It’s hard to do both but if you have the time and resources, keep at it; if you have to sacrifice one for the other, quality should win over quantity every time. It’s important to note that ‘good’ and ‘quality’ depend on your approach—the BBC and Buzzfeed operate on entirely different concepts of each, and both are wildly popular.
  3. Create incentive. Make it worth the wait. If you are producing thoughtful, engaging content, your visitors will want to keep returning to see if there’s more, and will be delighted when you have delivered. If you’re producing an abundance with little value, the incentive decreases and visitors might only check back occasionally—if at all.

Another approach is to erect a barrier between visitors and your content. Build a call-to-action that requires their email or phone number in exchange for an e-book or whitepaper. This might sound strange, but arbitrarily ascribing value makes something valuable, and therefore more enticing to visitors. Just don’t disappoint.

Kellie Gibson

Kellie Gibson
Marketing Writer
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