Quiet

Silent Selling.


Michael OverbeckQuiet down now.  Don’t speak, just for a little bit.  Let the moment marinate.

Most of us in sales are running over-programmed sales calls in which every pause, every quiet second, is something to be filled and patched over like so many cracks in a leaky boat.  We believe that there is just so much to say and explain that to waste even a second means perhaps missing the one point or feature that might create the magic moment.  But it’s a fool’s errand:  the magic moments were there all along….we just talked over them.

Those empty seconds of silence are actually filled with anticipation, consideration, curiosity.  They are the wellsprings of customer collaboration and commitment to the idea.  But as the seller you have to do more than just listen.  You have to program these white space moments into your sales calls.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. With AppNexus Mobile Solutions, you can access more demand partners than ever, gain precision insight into your inventory’s pricing and attract the ad spend of the world’s largest advertisers.

In the sales workshops I conduct for media and technology sellers, the problems to be solved are always remarkably similar:  the seller has far too much information and detail to share; the buyer is far too jaded, distracted and evasive;  the marketplace is confusing and filled with far too many competitors; the time together is brief and fleeting.

Too many managers – and sales trainers – give the shallow admonition to “do your homework” and “listen more than you talk.”  But that means little to the seller.  What she really needs is a plan…a plan to provoke and manage those quiet moments of consideration and commitment.  That’s what I try to provide, and there are just five parts to the plan.

  1. First, show the customer a slide that tells them a few things you’ve learned about their business, their situation, their needs, their competitors. Ask them what they think is most important on this slide and what else you might have missed.   Then shut up and listen fully.
  2. Next, show them a slide or page that clearly (and briefly) outlines the problem you hope to solve for them. Ask them how much this issue means to them and what else is critical to talk about.  Then shut up and listen fully.
  3. Before talking about your solution, show them a page that makes a handful of promises about the standards and practices your company will employ in solving the problem for them. Ask if these are important considerations and what else they value.  Then shut up and listen fully.
  4. Now talk about your potential solutions. Stop the conversation at several points and invite some silence by asking “How do you feel about this? … What would you do here?” At each point, shut up and listen fully.
  5. Finally, ask the customer for a commitment: If we can deliver this will you approve $X budget for it?  This may be the most important silence of all.  Shut up and let your customer fill the void.

This is what programming the silence looks like.  At each step in the process you are provoking a thoughtful response from the customer.  The opposite of talking isn’t just listening.  It’s being in the moment.  And it works.

Want to know more, or to teach your team this approach?  Just let us know.


White Space.


White Space“Real quiet is presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise.” ~Gordon Hempton.

It’s quite possible that this post won’t receive the kind of attention and social action that might be afforded to something on programmatic media or native advertising. I hope I’m wrong about that, because this might be one of the more important ideas I’ve posted in the 14 years I’ve written The Drift.

Into our crowded, noisy, attention-deprived industry and business world, I’d like to reintroduce the concept of white space. It’s the hour you don’t fill by slogging through your in-box at the beginning of your day; the at-first-awkward pause you refuse to fill with chatter in a client meeting; it’s the opportunity for real human connection where 25 PowerPoint slides used to be. White space is where great ideas, true engagement and actual persuasion and growth can happen. There’s too little of it in our world, and we have only ourselves to blame.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Lotame, whose data management platform enables you to make smarter advertising, product and business decisions. Through Lotame, you can learn more about your most valuable customers, find prospects that look and act exactly like them, and then execute campaigns that target them across any digital device. For more information, visit lotame.com

I am as guilty as anyone. I fill others’ in-boxes with emails – including this one – even as I use up valuable white space trying to clear my own. At my worst, I over-program meetings and pack too much information into messages or presentations. But I’m doing my best to bring white space back into my life and into my work with people like you and companies like yours. Because I know it’s only in white space that I create real, lasting value for those around me. Here’s a start:

  • Your first 90 seated minutes are the most valuable of your day. Most of us burn it all by reverse-navigating our inboxes. Instead, intentionally schedule thinking and creative time; write something that’s not email; schedule a face-to-face meeting or phone call during which you will be truly present.
  • Force-feed some white space into each conversation – whether with a customer, an employee or a family member – by asking them how they feel or what they think about a topic or an idea. Don’t interrupt – instead take notes and then see if you can paraphrase what you heard to the speaker’s satisfaction.
  • Run your next business meeting with just one slide. On that slide, in no more than 30 words, pose a collaborative question. For instance, “How might we put our company’s technology to work in new ways that would help your company start new relationships with your customers?” Tell those present that this is the one and only topic of your meeting and the only visual you’ve prepared. Let everything else happen on whiteboards and paper.
  • Run your next internal meeting in a “no-phone-zone.” Fight through the paranoia and sense of short term loss. It’s worth it.

Fresh air is what allows us to breathe. Quiet is what allows us to think. Real attention – giving it and getting it – is what allows us to grow anything worth having.  I used this morning’s white space to write this post.  Was it worth it?


Getting Quiet Again.


In a 2012 post,  I recommended Susan’s Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” It’s no less relevant today — probably even more so.  So take a little quiet time, soak in this re-post, and then check out the author’s TED Talk.  You’ll start to celebrate and appreciate the introverts in your world in whole new ways.

The core idea in “Quiet” is that our culture – especially in education and business – incubates and celebrates extroverts, while giving short shrift to the potentially powerful contributions of the introvert.  We organize our classrooms into “discussion pods,” and reward students for vocal participation and visible group “leadership.”  Our business culture revolves around committees, task forces and work groups, all so we can collaborate our way to success.  Along the way, we’ve come to the conclusion that the loudest voice belongs to he (and it’s very often ‘he’) who is the most confident, and therefore the leader.  If forced to conform to today’s cultural and business climate, introverts like Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Larry Page, Bill Gates and (!) Dale Carnegie would never have emerged as leaders.  The logic is inescapable, and there’s plenty of advice on how companies can better leverage the deep insights and massive potential of the introverted third of the world.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by comScore. For media sellers, comScore helps demonstrate the quality of their inventory in traditional and programmatic environments as well as provide tools for internal pricing and packaging. VIDEO and display environments benefit from detailed information about demographics, viewability and non-human traffic.

But the thing that really grabbed my attention in the TED Talk was this:  Our celebration of extroversion has brought about the near death of our ability to work alone; to puzzle over a problem or incubate the germ of an idea.  Our individual inability to stay with a problem causes us to lunge at simple solutions.  In sales, this promotes a “grab and go” culture in which the seller over-relies on marketing services to “come up with ideas.”  Often it ends up a shallow, frustrating exercise for all involved.

In the workshops I conduct with sales teams I have started to look for the introverts and carefully draw out their ideas and solutions.   Having spent a little more time in their own heads, their thinking is almost always more complete.  And I’m encouraging all sellers – introverts and extroverts alike – to schedule 30 minutes of unplugged ‘quiet time’ during each business day (and 60-90 minutes on the weekend) to consider problems and ideas on behalf of your customers.  Call it your daily “time in the wilderness.”  You’ll be amazed at what it does for your confidence and effectiveness.

As Susan Cain says, “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”  Try some today


Shhh…


Back in July in this space I recommended Susan’s Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” Hearing clips of the author’s TED Talk on NPR this weekend has me now doubling down on that recommendation and underscoring  some themes I didn’t call out in my brief mention of the book.

The core idea in “Quiet” is that our culture – especially in education and business – incubates and celebrates extroverts, while giving short shrift to the potentially powerful contributions of the introvert.  We organize our classrooms into “discussion pods,” and reward students for vocal participation and visible group “leadership.”  Our business culture revolves around committees, task forces and work groups, all so we can collaborate our way to success.  Along the way, we’ve come to the conclusion that the loudest voice belongs to he (and it’s very often ‘he’) who is the most confident, and therefore the leader.  If forced to conform to today’s cultural and business climate, introverts like Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Larry Page, Bill Gates and (!) Dale Carnegie would never have emerged as leaders.  The logic is inescapable, and there’s plenty of advice on how companies can better leverage the deep insights and massive potential of the introverted third of the world.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by OpenX. What if all your demand channels competed simultaneously to get you the best price for your inventory? With OpenX Lift, you can. Watch this short video and learn how our breakthrough yield optimization makes you the most money.

But the thing that really grabbed my attention in the TED Talk was this:  Our celebration of extroversion has brought about the near death of our ability to work alone; to puzzle over a problem or incubate the germ of an idea.  Our individual inability to stay with a problem causes us to lunge at simple solutions.  In sales, this promotes a “grab and go” culture in which the seller over-relies on marketing services to “come up with ideas.”  Often it ends up a shallow, frustrating exercise for all involved.

In the workshops I conduct with sales teams I have started to look for the introverts and carefully draw out their ideas and solutions.   Having spent a little more time in their own heads, their thinking is almost always more complete.  And I’m encouraging all sellers – introverts and extroverts alike – to schedule 30 minutes of unplugged ‘quiet time’ during each business day (and 60-90 minutes on the weekend) to consider problems and ideas on behalf of your customers.  Call it your daily “time in the wilderness.”  You’ll be amazed at what it does for your confidence and effectiveness.

As Susan Cain says, “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”  Try some today.