Most people believe that to be good in sales or customer service, you have got to be a good talker. You often hear people say, "You have the gift of gab; you should be in sales!" Nothing could be further from the truth. Many top sales people are defined as introverts on psychological tests-up to 75 per cent of them. They would much rather listen than talk in a sales situation. Poor salespeople dominate the "talking," but top salespeople dominate the "listening." Sales and customer service superstars practice the 70/30 rule. They talk and ask questions 30 percent of the time and then listen intently to their customers 70 percent of the time

Unfortunately, many sales and customer service personnel, if they ever do take time to ask questions, seem less interested in listening to the response than in getting on with the next question they want to ask. This creates "question shock," when too many questions are fired at the customer in a Sam Donaldson staccato. The customer gets confused by so many questions and feels like they are being interrogated or "boxed into" a particular response. This leads to the customer closing up, which in turn shuts down their interest in buying the product or service. In fact, the biggest single complaint of professional purchasers is that salespeople talk too much and listen too little, according to the Purchasing Managers Association of America's annual survey.

A salesperson who really listens, though, turns this dynamic upside down. Sales expert Brian Tracy calls listening "white magic." His research demonstrates that listening exerts an almost magical effect on human relationships. It causes people to relax and open up. Top salespeople know that customers don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. They know the quickest way to show caring is by effective listening.

There are scads of books, audiotapes, and video courses all teaching listening skills. While many are worthwhile, we have found the single most important principle to becoming a more effective listener is simply to employ an active listening technique called the "pause-button silence."

The pause-button silence is at the core of a dialogue style that has longer pauses between questions and answers than other styles. It's not a gimmick. It's a universally reliable technique that solves the question shock problem described above and leads to excellent communication. To use the pause-button silence , you simply pause for three-to-four seconds at two key places in the communication process-after you ask a question and after your customer responds. Introducing these two pauses into your sales and customer service conversations will dramatically-and immediately-improve the quality and quantity of the information you receive.

The reason is simple. When you practice the pause-button silence after you ask a question, it gives the customer much more time to reflect and respond with solid information. By pausing after they respond, you give yourself time to process what they've communicated. You show that you are really thinking about what they said, which in turn prompts them both to elaborate further and really think about what you said. The pause-button silence also generates greater trust by being patient and showing the customer you genuinely care about their needs.

The pause-button silence will seem uncomfortable at first. It may give you some 'nerves' when there is so much silence, but the payoffs after you get used to employing it are enormous. If you practice it for even a short time, it will become second nature, and you will become a more effective communicator with anyone. It's not a magical wand, but it does build trust and gain you more positive information than any other single listening skill.

Author's Bio: 

George Ludwig is a recognized authority on sales strategy and peak performance psychology. An international speaker, trainer, and corporate consultant, he is currently the president and CEO of GLU Consulting. He helps clients like Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, Northwestern Mutual, CIGNA, and numerous others improve sales force effectiveness and performance.

Though it's George's strategies and processes that help corporations increase productivity and performance, it's his tremendous energy and dynamism that spark the transformation. Again and again, clients remark on his amazing ability to unleash human capacity and inspire men and women to break out of their comfort zones. The result is a whole new type of salesperson.

George is the best-selling author of “Power Selling: Seven Strategies for Cracking the Sales Code” and “Wise Moves: 60 Quick Tips to Improve Your Position in Life & Business.” He’s also a columnist and frequent contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, and numerous business radio programs. Having gained a reputation as a thought leader in his industry, he is frequently interviewed for trade publications and newspapers.

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