Jerry West's Blog

You Talk Too Much

Have you ever lost a deal that you thought you had in the bag and you couldn’t figure out why?

I’m going to tell you.

It’s because you talk too much.

Yes. It’s true.

You see, there are two universal truths when it comes to sales. Inexperienced salespeople (including business owners) talk too much. Experienced salespeople shut the hell up when the person says they are ready to buy.


Because they know there is NOTHING that can be said to convince the person to buy because they already stated they wanted to buy. It’s that simple.


Shut up and get the money.


Let me give you a few examples. The first is from the HBO series Newsroom, which had a brilliant, yet short run.

In this scene, the main character Will (Jeff Daniels) is having a staff member (a former girlfriend) run through a meat grinder via a gossip column. He is in protection mode and wants the story to “go away.” He agrees to a backroom meeting with the columnist to “pay her off” and learns she wants a silent partner in a restaurant she wants to start for $50,000.

Will agrees and begins writing the check. All the columnist had to do was be quiet and get the check, but she continued to talk because there was an “awkward silence.”

And she lost the deal, with Will saying smugly, “You just talk too much.”

The second example is one that is personal. It was early in my career in 1998; I was in the office of the president of a company which was growing fast. He liked my approach, agreed to my fee and started writing the check. I allowed my elation over getting the deal to spill out verbally, which made him nervous, and he stopped writing the check. “Let’s hold off on this for a few days.” He never returned my phone calls.

Fast forward to a year later; I am meeting with a senior VP of an internet startup. I had a day job as a software tester and was doing design and SEO work on the side. I had done a ton of work without a contract to “prove” I was the right fit for them. The meeting was to approve my retainer and get the check. He threw a curve-ball and said he didn’t want to pay my retainer, but instead, tried to hire me full-time.

He correctly estimated out loud how much I was making with my day job and my side gigs. It freaked me out, but I didn’t react.

“I’m going to add $30,000 to that to make this an easy decision for you.” Remembering how I lost the large deal the year before because I became elated, I said in my head, “Shut the fuck up and keep a poker face.”

There was a MAJOR awkward silence, but I didn’t break it.

“Okay, I see that doesn’t impress you, and I was obviously wrong with my numbers. How about I throw in some stock options too which will fully vest in just one year.”

Again, I was silent and expressionless.

“Fine. A $10,000 signing bonus. I can have it wired to your account today if you agree to come on board.”

“Done,” was my reply.

While you may think this last example was more of a negotiation, it was far from that. I just remained silent. Months later when we were having some drinks, the VP admitted that it was a test. He said that most of the time when he gives offers, the person across the table goes into self-deprecation mode. He said he could uncover a person’s character flaws just by listening to them spill them all. They would have “diarrhea of the mouth” and just wouldn’t shut up. It was what he did best.

He then said, “And then there was you.” The “pitch” was three minutes, my work did the talking, and I spoke very little. Me, speaking very little, can you imagine? He said he already knew I was smart; he just had to know there was trust for the position he was about to give me. When I remained silent, he knew he could trust me.

Take it from my experience. When a client or a prospect says they want to buy and they agree to the price, shut up. Let them write the check in silence, get out of there and get to work.

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