Say Less. Sell More.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
– Ram Dass

By most measures, this meeting was very unimportant and should not have earned a place in my long-term memory. However, I still remember many details of this meeting, even though it happened about 20 years ago.

I was vice-president of resort marketing for Hyatt Hotels. When you work in a job like this, you quickly realize that lots of people want to sell you things. People are constantly trying to get appointments with you, because they have discovered the secrets to filling hotel rooms, attracting big-spender golfers or becoming THE place for destination weddings. I was on many people’s list of promising leads.

I agreed to this meeting because the person who asked to see me had an intriguing marketing idea and came highly recommended by a colleague. I greeted him in the lobby, and as we walked back to my office he began talking, telling me about his idea and how he had developed it. He was passionate about his idea and was clearly very excited to be talking about it. As we sat down in my office, he kept talking and, without missing a beat, opened his briefcase to pull out a bound presentation book that described his company, his product and his novel idea. He started walking me through his presentation when it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t spoken one word since we first said hello in the lobby.

Normally, this kind of situation would make me antsy and impatient, but this time I decided to go with the flow to see how long he would keep talking. As he continued, I noted that his idea was very interesting, but it was clear that he didn’t understand my business or the issues I was facing. He was telling me how he could help Hyatt Resorts, but he didn’t know what Hyatt Resorts needed from him. I began to lose interest.

After about 25 minutes of non-stop talking, he finished, asking, “So, what do you think?”

“Well, I’ll have to think about it. Why don’t you leave your materials, and I’ll show them to my team and we’ll get back to you.”

He looked disappointed. “Did I miss anything important?”

“I’m not sure,” I answered. “Let me think about it.”

Here’s what I could have said (but didn’t): “The only thing you missed is the target. If you walk into a dark room and throw a dart, it’s a one in a million chance you’ll hit a bulls-eye.”

With only a little bit of information from me, he could have adjusted his story and made it more relevant for me. But he wasn’t interested in getting information from me, only in giving information to me. So he missed the target.

By missing the target he missed the chance to connect with me and my business. My reaction was “I’ll have to think about it” and “we’ll get back to you,” because his monologue didn’t help me see how he could help me.

Charna HalpernAs anyone who has read this newsletter will have noticed, I am fascinated by the lessons that salespeople can learn from stage improvisers. I am writing about this in my forthcoming book, Ditch the Pitch. Recently I asked Charna Halpern, the founder of the iO theater in Chicago and Los Angeles (formerly ImprovOlympic), what makes for great improvisation, and the first thing she said, without hesitation, is, “The ability to really listen, actively listen, and build on each other’s ideas.”

Notice that she didn’t say anything about being funny, or clever, or witty. She talked about input, not about output. Charna Halpern, a highly-successful comedy entrepreneur, explained that the key to one of the most interesting forms of comedy is listening, not talking.

Imagine if this sales person had understood Charna’s wisdom. He would have ensured that I talked more than he did, and he would have listened intently to what I said, seeking out the reasons that I would want to use his product. He would haveditched the pitch to create a unique conversation with me, based on the unique way that he and I could work together.

If he had said less, not only would he have learned more about how to sell me, I would also have enjoyed the conversation more. Peter and Susan Glaser write in their book, Be Quiet, Be Heard, that people who speak more than 51% of the time during a conversation tend to be more satisfied with the conversation. You can notice this principle in your personal life: Watch people on the receiving end of a monologue. How many of them are enjoying themselves?

Every moment you are talking during a sales conversation is a moment you are not listening to your customer. You are listening to yourself. You are missing the chance to be alert and notice things that customize the conversation to this customer, at this very moment.

Our voices get in the ways of our ears, as the Ram Dass quote above suggests. “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” And, the more you hear, the more you can sell.

Steve Yastrow

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Conversation, Ditch the Pitch, Newsletters, Sales
One comment on “Say Less. Sell More.
  1. MTI Vacations graduate says:

    you were a pretty good teacher. I still use your style frequently. You were, however, a pain in the ass! But cool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Subscribe to the Blog
Email:  

On Steve's Mind
Get Steve's newsletter featuring his ideas and practical advice delivered to your email inbox.
* = required field
Latest Tweets
Testimonials
Kathleen Phillips
Not only is Steve's content sound, but the energy he displays in delivering it will knock your socks off.

Kathleen Phillips

Ernst & Young, Chicago, IL
roma-maxwell
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand, and our experience with them was empowering, fun and a great learning opportunity. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Alex von Bidder
In these high pressure times of bite-size communications we all hunger to be listened to and cared for individually. Our customers know great hospitality, the kind that is not about selling but treating their needs as our highest priority. Steve Yastrow’s teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
Chris Tucker
Steve is a creative and collaborative speaker who communicates his ideas clearly and concisely. He immediately understood our business needs and provided a better perspective on how our customers see us as a company. I have referred Steve to our customers in the past and I will continue to do so. He’s intuitive and has a unique way of looking at business. Steve has the experience to turn a project into something extremely valuable for any organization. I strongly recommend working with Yastrow and Company.

Chris Tucker

Director of Business Development, MBX Systems
Rhoda Olsen
Steve Yastrow has clearly described the emotional reality of customer relationships and their impact on profitable business growth.

Rhoda Olsen

President, Great Clips for Hair
american-licorice-logo
We have seen huge benefits from Steve's input. Steve is unlike any other consultant I've ever worked with. He takes a genuine, deep-seated interest in our business. He is intuitive and able to identify problem issues quickly. We wouldn't be as far along in acheiving of our long-term growth strategy if we hadn't actively and aggressively pursued Steve's Brand Harmony.

Michael MacDonald

Executive VP Sales and Marketing, American Licorice Co.
Mike Depatie
Steve Yastrow is at the forefront of the next evolution in marketing. We have implemented many of his innovative ideas... and have seen very positive results.

Mike Depatie

CEO, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
roma-maxwell
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line.

Roma Maxwell

Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Tom Peters
When Steve Yastrow writes, I pay close attention.

Tom Peters

Founder, Tom Peters Company
Alex von Bidder
Steve Yastrow's teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
Ward Alles
Steve Yastrow knows his stuff. That's why our management team has read all of his books. And that's why we've had him as a keynote speaker at both client and employee events. From creating brand alignment, to selling more effectively, to providing top-notch customer service, Steve offers words of wisdom based on real-life experiences. He always engages his audiences with questions, interactive exercises and great storytelling that keep you coming back for more. Read Steve's books. Then book Steve. You'll be glad you did.

Ward Alles

CEO, Core Creative
Craig Dwight
Steve’s approach to integrating all customer contacts into a comprehensive marketing message is a must in today’s information age. We have partnered with Steve to develop our integrated and comprehensive marketing message, and as a result of his excellent work, his new book is required reading for all of our employees.

Craig Dwight

Chairman & CEO, Horizon Bancorp
jim-winter
Steve put together a program that produced spectacular results, and the quality of our communication and customer satisfaction is vastly improved. I’ve been in business for 40 years, and Steve’s the first consultant that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from. We’re going to continue to work with Steve and the bright, energetic people that are on his team.

Jim Winter

COO, Dimension Design
roma-maxwell
I give Steve two thumbs up—five thumbs up, if I had that many!

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Chris Miller
I rarely book speakers more than once. But I’ve used Steve four times! Steve has our association’s interest at heart and works tirelessly to deliver customized programs. He always ranks highly with our affiliates because he is outcome-focused, fast-paced and highly engaging. Anyone looking for insight and understanding into marketing, branding and sales should book Steve!

Chris Miller

Executive Director, Professional Systems Network International
Ditch the Pitch is a great read-- interesting, fun, and easy to follow. And I’ve already seen the concepts work. Just yesterday, I called a client and had a conversation that was 95% about the client, as the book suggests. At the end of the call, he sent a new matter my way. I ditched the pitch and it resulted in new business.

Attorney

Chicago, IL
David Sank
I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that is intent on enhancing their customer experience. Prior to working with Steve, we were communicating various messages to customers. Steve and his team helped us achieve a cohesive brand message that we as a company live daily. Steve is an incredible listener and learned the nuances of our business rapidly. I can’t imagine anyone Yastrow and Company couldn’t help.

David Sank

President and CEO, Calico Cottage
Marc Allen
We are absolutely better off after engaging Yastrow and Company. They helped us look at our business from our clients’ perspective, resulting in a cultural shift throughout our organization. These changes have made a big impact - we’ve gained new clients and strengthened relationships with existing clients. The investment was well worth it.

Marc Allen

Vice President of Sales, AMD Industries
Jennifer Whelan
“Steve’s workshops helped bring out what is best at Acuative. His insights were fresh and long-lasting—we continue to use his tools and approach years later.”

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
Jennifer Whelan
Our work with Yastrow and Company yielded the best long-term value of any consulting engagement we’ve ever had. As we grow and expand internationally, Acuative continues to depend on the branding approach and marketing tools Steve and his team developed. Yastrow and Company genuinely partnered with us, were exceptionally responsive and remain committed to our success.

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
jim-evans
Yastrow and Company introduced Brand Harmony and their Be the Brand concept to our team at Jenny Craig.  I believe these new ideas contributed in helping us triple the company's revenue during my years as CEO.

Jim Evans

former President and CEO, Jenny Craig
Doug Ducey
In one morning, Steve re-energized the way we look at marketing. The only question we had at the end of the session was, ‘When can we get him back?'

Doug Ducey

CEO & Chairman, Cold Stone Creamery, Governor of Arizona