Your client is looking right at you. No words—just deep in thought. You just said something which made you very different from everyone else. Were you provocative? Did you just change your client’s perspective? If you're like most people you may not exactly know. But you do know you seriously got their attention.
Most people want to keep talking and fill the silence. Stop yourself. Don’t let the words come out of your mouth. Let your client process and think. This seemingly awkward moment is the time a person needs to reconcile their thoughts—maybe even their own conflicting thoughts. Your words are just a distraction from your client’s very busy mind. And this distraction will prevent you from winning the business you are pitching.
The moment is awkward—for you—but not your client. Their mind is working. You feel like you are left out in the cold or see a gaping silent hole in the conversation. You want things to be comfortable from your point of view—and mistakenly think an unexpected void is killing your chances of getting the business. The natural urge is to fill the space with words—again resist.
Your silence shows respect for your client’s thinking process. It also shows you are listening. You are sending a subtle message about how much you respect your client’s opinion. And every potential client expects you will respect their opinion.
Using words to fill the apparent vacuum created by your client’s thinking/processing time takes you off message. This a clear of example of talking because you want to instead of need to.
The thinking/processing vacuum is not limited to client pitches. You face this when you are making an internal pitch. You will find the silent abyss everywhere—budget defense, practice plans, training and presenting your special projects.
These deep silences seem like they last an eternity when they happen. The good news is they actually only last to 2 to 6 seconds. The best business developers train themselves to spot the thinking/processing void. The top rainmakers smile when the moment comes—maybe take a slow, deep breath—and smile internally. They know the silence is a clear signal they have made a deep connection—they know they are going to win the work. The void is the sign of victory.