2019 was a year to remember for Industry Dive. They were Neal awards finalist, Azbee awards finalist, Washington Post’s top workplace, Inc Magazine Fastest-Growing company, Folio 100 list, Deloitte technology fast 500 winners, and ended the year securing a deal with Falfurrias Capital partners to accelerate growth. As we were catching up, I asked Ryan, the CRO, and Co-Founder what was the best piece of sales advice he received.

“The best sales advice I ever received was to shut up. You’re better off fighting the instinct to fill the air. Learn to be comfortable with an extra beat of silence. Not only does it sound calmer and more professional, but usually the person on the other end of the phone will fill the silence for you and volunteer information that is helpful to get a deal done.”

After working with hundreds of sellers, the need to fill all empty airtime is a universal issue. In general, a break in conversation makes most people feel uncomfortable and the need to fill the empty silence is overwhelming.

I remember at the start of my sales career, I had a hard time not talking. Silence during a sales call set in a mini panic attack. I felt like the buyer was uninterested, and therefore, I was failing my organization. Consequently, while filling the open space, I usually spewed nonsense. The way I overcame the need to speak was turning from pitching to collaborating. As my questions matured the answers provided me better insights into the customer needs. Instead of pitching, I was discussing ways for us to work together.

The standard questions you hear from salespeople are not strategic. The most common objective questions I hear are:
• What is your goal
• What is your budget
• Is pricing an obstacle
• Who is the decision-maker?
• What is your pain
• Can I show you all of our capabilities
• Who else are you speaking with
• How can I earn your business

Asking standard questions gets you standard responses. By asking better questions, you can acquire more meaningful information providing you a  deeper understanding of the organization and the buyers. Instead of asking, is your goal to drive leads, ask how they define the different stages of their sales funnel.

The right set of questions gets buyers to open up and see you as a partner instead of another vendor.

Ryan Willumson was runner up in American’s next top model. He spent years as a C level actor in Hollywood before pursuing his real dream of running sales at Fierce Markets. After eight years, he left in 2014 to start Industry Dive with Sean and Eli. Industry Dive is business journalism for decision-makers in the most competitive industries, helping spark ideas and innovation, shape agendas, and empower confidence. www.industrydive.com