Rain Making Problem #12: Curing Bad Sales Habits

(This post is another in our series of Rainmaking Problems.  We invote your comments on this problem and would also welcome any problems you would like to submit to get comments from other readers.)

In my last post, I noted that curing bad habits is easier if you know what to do, rather than just what not to do. Instead of saying I, say we. Increase your eye contact and you will say uhm less often.

Over the years, the people in our firm have developed lots of prescriptions to deal with common bad sales habits. But I haven’t found satisfactory solutions to others. For example, what would you advise people to do to:

1> Stop talking so fast? I have never found a satisfactory cure to this common malady.
2> Stop selling after a client has agreed to a point? We all know do this, but failure rates remain high. What advice will reduce them?

Are there bad sales habits that you would like other readers’ advice on curing?

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7 Responses to “Rain Making Problem #12: Curing Bad Sales Habits”

  1. David Says:

    I was taught to imagine myself explaining something to my grandmother or grandfather (smart & comands respect, but might not listen quickly). This will force you to choose common/familiar words, and speak slowly — but with a genuine respect that has no condescention.

  2. clifton warren Says:

    Stop talking so fast – pause for 2-3 seconds to give a person time to digest what you have said

  3. Ford Harding Says:

    David and Clifton

    I will try both of these techniques. Clifton, I think you are saying that a listener can absorb fast speech, if it is broken into short segments with brief pauses between them. I will try it.

    Ford Harding

  4. Ian Brodie Says:

    Hi Ford,

    Sims Wyeth has some pointers on learning to speak more slowly in one of his newsletters: http://simswyeth.com/newsletter/hsp-price-of.html (along with some evidence on the impact of talking too fast).

    Personally, my bad habit is overenthusiasm – which tends to lead to a tendency to talk too much.


  5. Ford Harding Says:


    Sims Wyeth’s article is up to his usual high standards and well worth a fast-talkers attention. Thanks.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for Ian, whose enthusiasm leads him to talk too much?

    Ford Harding

  6. DG Says:

    I was reminded the other day in the midst of a presentation the occasional Asset that is fast talking when, as a result of a series of client-interruptions that put us behind schedule (it is their privilege to interrupt) they asked that we go thru the end fast – and, ta-da, the tempo picked up, we spoke fast, crisp, collected, they perked up with the new intensity and we roared into a very successful finish.

    A long way of saying: speaking fast is sometimes required, and like all things, in measured doses makes a presentation more interesting. My sense is that the trick is not so much slowing the entire delivery down, as much as knowing the appropriate times & ways in which to modulate it (ala music). Particularly when slides are involved, I find slow/long winded talking a more frequent offense…

    Which brings us too enthusiasm & too much talking: having spent some time in theater, I can say that a script & a stopwatch are your best friends. I’ve never seen enthusiasm on its own be a liability, but running out of time because you’re saying too many words (or talking too slow!) can be a huge problem. Practice what you’re going to say beforehand against a clock; if you’re presenting with slides, set up an auto-advance to get you thru in the targeted time & work against that (you can then modulate later); get someone else (fairly ruthless!) to run the presentation while you talk; videotape yourself; don’t be afraid of the pregnant pause.

  7. Ford Harding Says:

    When I feel rushed my fast talking gets worse. You seem to reac better to that pressure than I do. I am already quickstepping when the tempo picks up.

    Your reminder to prepare a script–one not to be read in front of the client, but spoken approximately from memory–and then to practice is something we all need to hear repeatedly.

    Thanks for the comment
    Ford Harding

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