Some years ago I was in my Albuquerque office when my assistant received a telephone call. She was acting oddly, saying only a few words, and she seemed bewildered. Then she said, “Lenann is here. Yes, she’s here. Just a moment.” She turned to me and said, “It’s John Jones.” (And yes, the name has been changed to protect the innocent!)
I said, “Who’s John Jones?” She shrugged.
So I picked up the phone in my normal, fairly brisk manner, and said, “Hi, it’s Lenann Gardner. How can I help you?”
“Uh … well … uh … Lynn Ann? Uh … this is John Jones … from out in Gallup … and, uh, I understand that you … (cough) that you, uh, do some of that … (cough) sales … uh, sales training? I probably need to … uh … get some of that …”
This guy was hard to listen to. He was soooooo slooooow, I physically put my hand over my mouth (remember, we were on the phone together) to stop myself from talking. Very slowly I said, “I see.”
And he continued, asking me what I did for companies such as his. Soon slow.
And I’m thinking, wait a minute here. If this conversation is successful, he’s going to ask me to drive out to Gallup. That’s a two-and–a-half-hour drive each way, and I’ll be doing it on my time and my gas money. Nope, if he’s going to hire me, he’ll need to hire me now, so that when I do drive to Gallup, I’ll be paid for my gas, and I’ll be delivering some sales training when I arrive.
So I decided to close him on the phone—or to know that he was not a prospect for the work I do.
Would you believe that our conversation at the “uh … well … uh … Lynn Ann” level—went on for over an hour? Whatever he said, I’d give back: “So, uh, John … you’re looking to get some sales training, then?” “And, uh, John, uh, you’re concerned that … uh … this, uh, sales training, be … uh … specific to the selling job … uh … that your people have?
And would you believe that at the end of it he hired me to provide two full days of training in Gallup, New Mexico, with a six-month follow-up program conducted by me to motivate his people and to track their results? He did.
The lesson is that the matching of another person’s pace of speech is powerful, and using the listening tool of giving him back what he was saying to me, at the speed he spoke it, conveying the emotion he put on it, built a bridge and trust with another person that led to a sale.