Reduce your word count and win the deal

Here’s a rule of thumb for sales: The less the prospects talks, the less they buy. 

This might run counter to conventional sales-pro wisdom, but in my experience this is true.  In my 2nd book (The Likeability Factor) I quote findings from a 2004 study at Yale that concluded that the highly-likeable sales person (with strong listening skills) outperforms…why?  The prospect gives her better information to craft the perfect proposal.  If you’ve ever lost a sale when you had the best product at the right price, know you know why: The other side had better insights into the prospect’s problem than you did.

When I was Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo!, many of our pitches were for millions of dollars.  Since these were such big deals, our prospects were fine with us recording and transcribing our meetings, so there would be no misunderstandings later and all of the promises made in-meeting would be kept. 

Along the way, I discovered the importance of reducing our word count.  When I had the recordings transcribed into Word, I had one of my researchers split the conversations into word counts – measuring what we said versus what the prospects said.  A pattern emerged: When the prospect talked more than a third of the meeting, they were significantly more likely to buy, escalate their interest to a senior level or agree to the next meeting to move forward.  When they talked less than twenty percent, they were significantly less likely to buy or, for that matter, take another high level meeting with us.  

Since then, I’ve conducted this experiment with multiple companies and the results are pretty much in line.  Based on all of this experience, here’s what I recommend for you and your team’s word count for successful sales meetings (be it selling a product or creating a strategic partnership):  First meeting: Client = 33% or more of word count.  2nd meeting on: Client = 50% or more of word count. Here are a few tips on how to pull this off: 

1.  Prepare thoughtful questions before a meeting.  Prospects don’t come to meetings armed with content for conversation, you do.  So, do resarch on their problems, challenges and business priorities, and put together a Q/A list for the meeting.  Think through the process, creating follow up questions based on anticipated answers. For geeks, think of this as a ‘conversation wireframe’. 

2. Begin the meeting with the questions and save the Power Point presentation for the end (or as a leave behind or follow up).  This forces the meeting into dialogue and immediately improves your word count ratio. 

3. Test yourself often! Get permission to record and transcribe the meeting, offering to send to them as a follow up.  (This is a good practice if you want to ensure follow up!).  You can use SpeakWrite to inexpensively transcribe any audio files you create (on your smart phone or via a pocket recorder.)  You’ll get back a transcript that clearly identifies your content vs theirs.  Copy all of yours to a new document and you’ll have your word count.  Do the same for the prospect.  This will allow you to clearly measure how you are doing – and when you measure, you will improve! 

For more: Talk Less, Say More: 3 Habits To Influence Others & Make Things Happen by Connie Dieken