Talking Too Much: Why You Do It & How to Stop

BY Jessica Helinski
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Talking too much is an issue among salespeople. Despite knowing it can turn off prospects and hinder a sale, reps still find themselves doing it. Replacing speaking with listening is a must-​do for salespeople if they want to improve their process. “‘Listening to me’ was the third most influential factor in buyer purchase decisions according to our recent study,” writes RAIN Group’s John Doerr in an article for their blog. “Sixty-​eight percent of buyers are highly influenced by sellers who listen well. But sellers don’t deliver. Buyers report that only 26% of sellers are effective listeners.”

That large gap shows that reps are simply talking too much, which isn’t what buyers want. Doerr examines this issue in his article and breaks down the root of the problem, the potential repercussions, and what one can do to overcome the habit.

Talking too much: The why

Why do salespeople talk too much, even when they know they shouldn’t? It comes down to a few reasons. Doerr discusses the many reasons why a rep might feel the need to overtalk. Here are just a few:

  • The need to pitch. Face it, a lot of the time, it just comes down to selling and the need to show the buyer why they should buy. But reps need to remember that part of the pitch isn’t just schilling their product or service. It’s also demonstrating their professionalism and that they care about the prospect. “…Buyers first want to know whether you’re a good fit for working with them as much as they’re evaluating your level of technical competence,” Doerr explains.
  • Nerves. Some salespeople find themselves feeling anxious when it’s time for them to talk business, especially if it’s with more than one person. Those feelings of anxiety cause them to ramble on, actually talking too much. If you suspect this could be an issue for you, Doerr suggests getting to the root of it: your nerves. He recommends asking yourself questions like, “Am I uncomfortable starting new conversations? Am I uncomfortable talking to senior-​level buyers? Am I not confident in my knowledge of the product or service and the value they provide?”
  • No plan or objective. Some reps may simply not be prepared. Entering a sales conversation without a plan can leave a rep floundering. Not having a clear objective to drive the conversation often leads to talking too much because, as Doerr points out, “the conversation meanders every which way and ends with neither clarity of purpose nor helpful action steps.”
  • Discomfort with silence. Typically, people, especially salespeople, don’t like silences during a conversation. It can feel uncomfortable, so reps will try to fill in that space by talking, and often talking too much. But, silence can be powerful, allowing buyers time to pause and process what they’ve heard.

Talking too much doesn’t just run the risk of annoying the buyer. Sellers also miss out on opportunities to move the deal ahead. While salespeople may be skeptical of this, thinking that a lot of talking means a lot of “selling,” that just isn’t always the case. Doerr outlines various missed opportunities from talking too much, including the opportunity to:

  • Build trust and rapport. This is a big missed opportunity. “Buyers buy from people they like,” Doerr explains. “They listen to people they like. They take advice from people they like. If you’re doing all the talking, you won’t pick up on the signals that indicate what’s important to the buyer. You miss the connection, the rapport, you can build.”

This missed opportunity is even more critical as the majority of sales are no longer being done in-​person. In fact, reps are saying that building rapport and trust is even more difficult. Doerr reports that research from RAIN Group revealed that “Eighty-​eight percent of sellers say developing relationships and 87% of sellers say building rapport are top challenges in a virtual selling environment.” 

  • Uncovering needs. Finding out the true needs of a prospect is another victim of talking too much. When the seller is doing all of the talking, the prospect doesn’t have a chance to give much input. “If you’re doing all the talking, you can only guess which components of your products and services will offer the greatest value,” he explains. SalesFuel recently shared results from LinkedIn’s State of Sales survey that revealed 56% of buyers “strongly agree” that they’re more likely to consider a brand when a sales rep demonstrates a clear understanding of our business need.

How to control how much you talk

After shedding light onto the causes and missed opportunities of talking too much, Doerr moves on to how one can reign in their talking. Here are just a couple of his tips:

Balance advocacy with inquiry. Yes, you need to convince the buyer to buy, but you also need to learn what will make them buy. Go into sales conversations with this mantra, and emphasize the word “balance.” You don’t want to talk the entire time, but you also want to talk just enough to guide the prospect and the conversation. “A good sales conversation should have the prospect talking more than you, but buyers are also looking for your insight,” he explains. “Just make sure you wisely and appropriately choose how much wisdom you impart, and how much airtime you take to impart it.”

Ask open-​ended questions. This is a strategy that SalesFuel has shared before. As a previous post explains, “Open-​ended questions are a fantastic way to not only get a back-​and-​forth dialogue going with prospective customers, but also help you mine some valuable information from them.” These types of questions prevent you from talking too much because it invites the prospect to be the one to do the talking. 

Get coaching. Coaching is vital and not enough reps receive it. SalesFuel’s Voice of the Sales Rep survey found that not even 30% of reps say their manager provides sales coaching personalized to their unique needs. Actively seek out your manager or a mentor for guidance on reigning in your talking; he or she may even be able to role-​play conversations to get you started and comfortable with this adjustment. 

Talking too much can be detrimental to sales, and reps may not have even considered it an issue. Thanks to Doerr’s in-​depth article, sellers can understand why they have the urge to talk so much, learn about what they may be missing out on by talking too much, and how to remedy it. As he explains, “We all know the more we listen to our customers, the more we can find out how to help them. So listen to your buyers before they become your customers.”