There is no worse sin in the sales world than when one seller interrupts another during a meeting with a client. Even more troubling is when the person being interrupted is the sales manager. Interruptions of any kind are annoying and are evidence of poor manners and thoughtlessness. In interpersonal relationships they can be troubling, but in the business world, they can mean disaster in the form of lost clients and opportunities. And yet this problem seems to be more and more commonplace.
Years ago, I was making a presentation to a client when I noticed the salesperson who was with me on the call was shaking her head in disagreement with something I said. I stopped my presentation and asked her what the problem was, and she told me I had quoted an incorrect number. She was right, but she interrupted the flow of my pitch, and the ending was a little flat. The client bought the package so there wasn't a lot of harm done. But later as I drove my colleague and myself back to our office I suggested in the future that she should wait to the end of a meeting to suggest a correction. I explained that we all have different styles of presenting and a seemingly minor interruption can have a negative effect on a presentation.
I witness people talking over others all the time. I guess this is part of the general lack of manners on display these days in all facets of society. People simply charge into a conversation even though someone else is saying something. These folks are so wound up with their own importance that they can't wait to put their 2 cents in no matter what effect that has on the person being interrupted. It doesn't even seem to enter the heads of the inconsiderate that there is something wrong with this. It's as if they were never told how to behave.
I was on a trip with one of my colleagues the other day and she asked me if I had any sales tips for her, so I rattled off the basics. I said she should start every sales call with this type of question: "Do you have any questions for me before I start my presentation?" That gives the client a chance to have an active role in the conversation and gives the salesperson some tips on what products or services the client is interested in. Too many people get into a pitch before the listeners have a chance to get comfortable. A salesperson is a guest, so not being solicitous of the client is doubly rude.
So my advice to any salesperson is to develop good listening skills. I've talked to other top salespeople about this and they agree. Listening includes more than one's ears; the eyes also play a role. Good eye contact lets speakers know they are truly in a conversation and that their words are important to the listener.
Listening rarely involves the lips, though. You need to keep your mouth shut when the other person is talking. When the subject is something the other person knows more about than you do, such as the nature of that person's business, why interrupt?
Keeping one's mouth shut often can make one look more poised and intelligent. Eventually people who talk too much get themselves in some kind of trouble. They either have their facts wrong or they say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But trying to teach others the wisdom of silence is most difficult in this day and age. Everybody wants to talk this instant.
On the other hand, big-time negotiators know the importance of silence. When getting down to the end of a tough negotiation, many skilled dealmakers will simply stay quiet until the others talk themselves into conceding a point.
Whether it's sales, romance or negotiation, being frugal with one's words is a sign of strength. How many times has a romance ended because one party does all the talking? How many times have you been in a situation where another person talks so much you pray his or her voice gives out so you can concentrate on what you're doing? There are people you avoid because you know you will be trapped in a monologue. Such people don't know that they are wasting everyone's time chattering.
The same thing can be said of written communication. While it takes some people only a few words to make their point, others will drone on, leaving the reader bored, irritated or confused.
Words are precious and they should be treated that way whether in a letter, on the phone or in person. Listen carefully to what others have to say and be mindful of your audience. Having no respect for the other person's time, patience and privacy is a stupid way to establish or nourish a relationship, be it personal or business.