No Bull: In Sales Silence is Golden

By Hank Trisler, Author of No Bull Selling: 2010 Edition, and reprinted from SalesGravy

Silence used to terrify me. When I was a much younger man, just beginning to learn how to sell, I was convinced that selling equated to talking. If I wasn’t talking, I wasn’t selling and if I didn’t sell, I’d starve to death. That’s terrifying.

I immediately set off to rectify this situation on two fronts. First, I determined that I would learn every single feature and benefit of my product, so no customer would be able to ask me a question I couldn’t answer. I was trying to sell Oldsmobiles at the time, so I learned the differences between the 88, the Super 88 and the 98 models. I learned the piston displacement of the engines, I learned the cubic footage of the trunks, I learned so much my poor baby mind was just slopping over with product knowledge.

I couldn’t keep ahead of them. The customers still asked questions I couldn’t answer, as I hadn’t thought of them. Besides, the answers kept changing. I’d just learn one set of numbers and a new model would come along and it was a whole new game.

The second front was I studied talking. I read a couple of books on the subject and joined Toastmasters® International. They taught me not to say “Ah,” and to button my suit coat, but still people weren’t particularly interested in what I was saying.

I determined that if they weren’t interested in me, I needed to talk louder and faster and I did. People would come into our dealership and I’d holler, “Good morning and thank you for coming in to Fleet Service Oldsmobile. My name is Hank Trisler. How may I help you this lovely day?”

And they’d say, “Just looking,” or “Looking for the Parts Department,” or “Where’s the men’s room?”

People didn’t want to hear me babble. They had their own agenda when they walked in and fulfilling that agenda was of primary importance to them.

I learned to simply say, “Good morning,” and then to shut up. They would then tell me about their agenda and I saved a lot of time and wind.

Silence is frightening, as silence is a form of vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum, so someone’s words will always rush in to fill the vacuum. If you don’t know what to say, the silence will be frightening, as it makes you realize how little you know.

Don’t sweat it. If you just shut up, the customer will very likely talk, just to fill the vacuum. The pressure you feel is also on the customer. The first person to talk loses control of the conversation.

The central issue, then, is how to remain silent in the face of the enormous pressure of silence. If you’re like me, you’ll simply crack and begin to babble, just to make the quiet go away.

Try counting. Every time you ask a customer a question, or make a statement, count. That’s right,  “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi, Four Mississippi…” NO, not out loud. Do it under your breath.

Having something on which to concentrate will allow you to focus on keeping your mouth shut and eliminate all the fear from silence. Silence is your friend. Use it for fun and profit and believe your customers will appreciate it, too.

Hank Trilser, CEO of the Trisler Company, has been inspiring exceptional sales performance for more than fourty years.He brings to bear his rich experience and common sense tactics in this newly revised 3rd edition of his classic, bestselling book. Sprinkled with humorous anecdotes and hypothetical situations, No Bull Selling tells you what you need to make that sale. 

About the Author Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman, the CEOs Sales Coach. According to, she is among the world’s leading experts on the complex sale. She strategizes with sales leadership and provides innovative ideas to grow sales. Originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group, Alice and her team incorporate the newest research and best practices to provide sales programs that generate immediate and sustainable results.

follow me on:
  • The following is an exerpt from an article I wrote on the same subject…

    Silence is Golden but Duct Tape is Silver

    What does it take to close the sale? One word… Silence

    Silence is golden because it allows the sales person to apply pressure at the end of the sales interaction without using “HIGH PRESSURE SALES TACTICS”. I am sure we have all heard the phrase, “if you don’t ask, you don’t receive”. Asking for the sale after every presentation is the most obvious of sales tips, but what happens after you ask the prospect to buy?

    Keep your mouth SHUT and wait for the prospect’s response.

    People process information at different speeds and unless you are an operator with the psychic friends’ network in the mind reading department, there is no reason to open your mouth before receiving a response from the prospect.

    I don’t care if it takes an hour before the prospect speaks; keep your lips zipped (this is where the duct tape comes in).

    One of two things will happen when the prospect speaks. They will either say, “YES” or they will offer an objection. If there is an objection, overcome it and ask for the sale again. Repeat until the desired effect is realized.

    It is okay to ask for the sale. You will not offend your customer by asking for their business; however, you will offend them by NOT asking for it. Have you ever walked into a store with every intention of making a purchase and left because the sales person neglected you and did not help you with your purchase? I have! Don’t let your prospect down.

  • >

    Your Sales Pivot

    What CEOs Need to Know About Sales Right Now

    Learn how to remove fear, triage pipelines and pivot to grow sales during these turbulent times.