There is a great tool that all of us have available to us and that we underutilize, and that is silence. How many times have you been quoting a client a fee and you feel a little bit of pushback? They are saying that they can’t afford it and you’re starting to feel like you need to back down on your fee, or you need to negotiate against yourself. This especially happens when you’ve quoted a fee and then a client sits there silently thinking about it. Often times we feel like we need to jump in and fill that space with words, we get nervous and we think oh my gosh we need to fill this silence. But I want you to focus on using silence as a negotiating tool and as a way to help you earn more money.
As lawyers, we’re trained to think on our feet. We’re trained to immediately respond. When someone’s talking we’re thinking about our response. But when we start to incorporate silence we actually allow ourselves to just listen quietly to what the other person is saying without a response, and we can pause to think. Additionally, sitting in silence is actually a great way to recalibrate a situation. I learned this through my husband and my business manager because he’s a quiet kind of guy.
Often times we’ll be having a conversation and he will just be silent and not respond for a moment. Or if he quotes a client a fee and a payment plan, he’ll say his piece and then he will sit there silently. Often times if I’m in the room I want to just jump in and start filling it with sound and start explaining the fee, and explaining why it’s that way and all of that, but my husband just sits there quietly and he doesn’t say anything. He allows the client the space to think it over.
Let me tell you that it actually ends up closing more deals by allowing yourself to sit there in silence. As I’ve observed my husband do this I have started to implement it into my own practice. Often times now I will quote a fee, I will go through everything, and I will go through my sales presentation of my consultation, and when I’m done I’ll ask if they have any questions. The clients ask questions. We’ll go back and forth. Then I allow myself to just be silent and sit there with them because sometimes they need to let it sink in. They need to think about it for a second, and they need to process it before they can come up with another question.
This is an incredibly good technique for getting people to do what you want because often times people feel very uncomfortable with silence. I know that I did, and I think most lawyers do. We especially feel this way around money. But when you talk and you put a price out there and then you sit there silently because you’re not going to defend it, you don’t need to defend it, you don’t need to over explain it because you’ve already explained it, that silence allows the other person to think. Sometimes the silence makes the person uncomfortable and they feel like okay I just want to break the silence and do something or say something, and it actually is part of the sales technique.
I challenge you to use silence more in your life. I actually have started to incorporate the silent pause not just in my business, but also in my personal life. It gives me more of an opportunity to listen to others. Not only when it comes to my clients, but also with my kids, with my own husband, and with everyone who’s important in my life now, I try to not constantly fill the silence, which is hard for me. I have a lot to say, and I’m an attorney so I have a large vocabulary that I love to use, but the silence has actually encouraged much deeper connections within my own family.
One of our teenage kids is an introvert, and she actually likes a lot of silence. She’s quieter, so instead of asking her a ton of questions and trying to fill the quiet space, I’ll ask her a question and then just pause and let that silence hang there between us for a little bit as she gathers her thoughts, and then she speaks. It’s an introvert’s tool essentially. They don’t even necessarily know that it’s a tool, but it’s something that’s really powerful to empower relationships and to empower business negotiations.
I challenge you to use silence, to use that pause, and see how you can hear more, how you can learn more, and also how it can be effective in both your family and in your business.