Sales Coach Christine Harrington

The 5 Second Rule No One Talks About

THE AWKWARD SILENCE. Yes, the subject came up again just last week, during a client’s first session.

“Christine, when there’s a lag in the conversation, I usually start talking to fill the void so the prospect doesn’t feel uncomfortable.”

Me: ‘What makes you think the prospect feels uncomfortable?’

“Well, if I’m feeling that way, I assume he must too.”

Me: “WHY?”

“I mean, shouldn’t I keep the conservation moving?”

Me: ‘How can you tell he finished his thought.’

“Well…because he stopped talking.”

Me: “Don’t you pause to gather your thoughts?”

The Light Bulb went on.url


This is one of the most important sales communication tool to learn.

The awkwardness of silence was probably singed into your memory banks somewhere back in junior high at a class dance. Boy sees girl sitting alone at a class dance. Boy nervously asks girl “wanna dance?” Girl says anxiously, “sure.” Boy and girl dance never looking at each other or saying a word. The music stops so boy walks girl back to her chair, and sits down next to her. Boy fiddles with his shoestrings not sure about what to say or do. Girl fidgets with her hair not sure about what to do or say. Finally boy says ‘thanks’ and gets up. Girl says “sure” never looking up.

This was me, at 12 years old attending my first school dance. AWKWARD! Well, junior high is over. So it’s time to get over the awkward silence.

If you Google awkward silence, you’ll find lots of negative posts but little on the positive aspects of allowing an awkward silence. In sales, the awkward silence is a blessing in disguise.

And there’s a psychological aspect that’s worth looking at.

Dr. Alex Lickerman states in an article that appeared in Psychology Today

  • Silence gets you out of the way and creates a space others will fill in with themselves.
  • Most of us engage in listening only as a way of waiting until it’s our turn to speak. If you can’t resist thinking about what you want to say when listening, focus instead specifically on being silent.
  • People want more than anything to be heard and understood and will find anyone who provides them that feeling powerfully charismatic.
Conversation Silence is a learned skill that turns into “a space others will fill in with themselves.”

How many times have you engaged in a conversation with a prospect or client and he stops talking. You jump in to fill the void because it makes you uncomfortable.

How the 5 Second Sales Rule works

Instead of jumping in…count to 5 in your mind. Chances are the prospect will begin to talk again, expanding on his thought, by the time you hit 4.

Too many times an assumption is made that the prospect has finished, when in reality all he is doing is gathering his thoughts. Jumping in to fill the silence causes the prospect to lose his train of thought. In other words, you’ve silenced him when you really want to encourage him to keep talking. The way to encourage him is to create a space for him to fill in with his issues and problems. The longer he talks the more information he will reveal which helps you to know how to help him.

Resist the urge to jump in.

If he hasn’t resumed talking after 5 seconds, you can say “Can you tell me more?”or offer a brief summary of what he said as a clarification that you get his issues. Be sure to follow with…’am I understanding this correctly?’ I’ve had prospects add even more information after I’ve said this.

I’m not a genius. A therapist taught this to me. She explained that when asking a patient a question, they often answered it. However, she discovered, if she sat silent for about 5 seconds, generally the patient would begin speaking again and offering more information.

Hmmm..’I wonder if this will work in selling.’ I asked myself.

So I tested it and Yes! It works! I began sharing this sales secret with my private clients. They told me in disbelief that “IT WORKS!” (Their emphasis not mine)

Try it and let me know what you think…the more you practice the 5 Second Sales Rule the easier and more comfortable you’ll get with it. And your prospects and clients will feel heard and understood, which turns into sales!

Question: What do you think about the 5 Second Rule…are you willing to give it a try? Leave your comments below.
And here’s a Quick Tip on Networking Cards. 

How many times have you presented your boring business card at a networking event or someone gives you their fabulous card. Do you secretly wish your company would be more business card savvy.
This Quick Tip will show you how to be memorable by simply using a business card. And here’s the Business card link mentioned in the video that I personally use:

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