During the recently concluded BizBookLab event (organized by Todd Sattersten, ex-President of 800-CEO-READ) at Portland, there was a discussion on the power of silence. We talked about the strategic importance of silence. It was a good investment because we all strongly believed that silence is heard.
The discussion took me down memory lane to the early days of my first startup in the U.S. I learned a lot during that time, and one of the biggest lessons was becoming comfortable with silence.
During those early days:
- I would cringe when there was a long silence after a proposal was submit.
- I would cringe when there was a long silence after an offer was made to a star employee.
- I would cringe when there was a long silence between the launch of a marketing campaign to the time we started seeing some substantial leads.
- I would cringe when there was a long silence from the time we re-launched our website to the time we started getting some positive response because of the re-launch.
In summary, silence was scary, uncomfortable and something I avoided as much as possible. I could not let space exist in any part of any process. I strived hard to fill the void.
What was worse was that the more I tried to avoid the silence, the more the problem got aggravated. For example, by trying to follow up more than what was necessary, I would create a feeling with a prospect that I am "desperate" (not eager) to get their deal. Some prospects started to get a feeling that we would be depending heavily for our survival. Once that feeling set in, they were reluctant to engage in a transaction.
It seems that most of us are trapped by our addiction to Newton’s Third Law (action and reaction are equal and opposite). I was. Adding to that, most of the marketing out there is about how you can “get this” or “get that” now. The message is simple -- “If you don’t have the money, no problem, you could simply swipe your credit card now and make your dream come true.” It does seem attractive.
Over the years though, I learned that things simply take time. That’s the way nature works and we just have to get used to it. Silence is a big part of the plan. While Newton’s law (action and reaction are equal and opposite) works just great, when it comes to life, the reaction (or the consequence) for your action comes after a time lag. There is a silence or the void in between the action and the consequence. Music wouldn’t be music if there were no silence between the notes.
The biggest benefit of getting used to silence has been the reduction in the level of stress and anxiety. As we both know, a transaction requires urgency on both sides. As someone who is selling, it is clear that there is urgency on your end. But your urgency to close the deal would not be sufficient to induce urgency on the part of the buyer. In the buying cycle, there is silence everywhere -- from the time the need was discovered to the time the buyer became aware of your solution, from the time the buyer became of your solution to the time the buyer compared all the available options, from the time they chose your solution to the time they negotiated a “win-win” agreement and from the time they negotiated a “win-win” agreement to the time they signed the deal.
You can “shrink” the length of silence in a number of ways but (unless you have God-like powers) you can’t eliminate it completely. You becoming uncomfortable dealing with their silence will make them uncomfortable dealing with you. And, that in turn will start a downward spiral finally ending nowhere close to where you wanted it.
I wish I could give you some “tips and tricks” that I used to get comfortable with silence, but it really was as simple as “accepting” silence and “embracing” it with open arms. Once I did that, it became part of my background thinking and got factored into all my plans. Once it was part of the plan, there was no special treatment required to deal with it.
As you make your plans for the upcoming year, why not factor “silence” into your plans? It will make a world of difference!
Image credit: Silence by Alice Popkorn
Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur, author and speaker based in Silicon Valley. You can follow him on his blog at rajeshsetty.com/blog or on Twitter at twitter.com/rajsetty. This article is an excerpt from his upcoming book codenamed “Smart, but stuck!”