Flying from San Diego to Austin the other day, I immediately regretted my choice of seat. Directly behind me, a woman began speaking in a loud, flat voice, describing in great detail her dog’s intestinal parasites to her seatmate.

I cringed. I knew immediately that this individual was going to speak for the entire three hours of the flight without even pausing for breath. Kind of like many sales people that you have encountered in your life.

So how did I know that she would be unable to stop talking – and what does this scenario teach us about sales strategy?

The signals were clear. Her voice was too loud, her cadence was too fast, and her delivery was entirely too flat. All of which suggested that she did not want to be interrupted—and equally importantly, that she was not spending a lot of time thinking about what she was saying.

So why then, did she continue speaking non-stop for three hours? Why, during those three hours, did we only get about 10 minutes into her dog’s most recent visit to the vet?

I believe the answer is because she, like so many people, was bored, insecure…and afraid. In her case, that fear might have been literal (flying, for example). But it was also a fear of silence. A fear of not controlling the conversation and her surroundings. A fear of not being taken seriously.

What she did not know, however – and what many sales people do not know – is that there is great power in silence. In fact, everything that troubles the mind of a sales person can be improved upon by listening rather than speaking. How much less bored would we be if we listened to and took an interest in the affairs of others? Would we not be more secure serving as a sounding board rather than as a megaphone?

As for the fear of not controlling our surroundings – we don’t. At best, we influence the behavior of our customers and prospects (hopefully in a good way.) And how can we hope to influence what we do not understand? In sales, as in life, we need to slow down, ask good questions, and both listen to and hear the responses that we get. Remember, it is not about you and it is not about me. It’s about our customers, their hopes, their goals, their desires, and their needs!