If I could just interrupt you for one minute…

Published: 09/09/21

Author: Nikki Myles

If I could just chip in there for a minute…Let me just chip in there for a second…

 I’ve been thinking a lot about sales conversations recently.  I always talk and write about having open sales conversations, being a sales explorer, living in the moment of the conversation, and letting customers take you where they want to go.

 But I’ve also been thinking about the amount of time a salesperson typically gets with a customer. It’s usually 60 minutes on average, and it’s unlikely that your customer can afford to meet very often. And when sales have 12 months to make a target, the last thing your salespeople might believe they have time for is letting a conversation just take its course.

 That’s why planning before a meeting is focused on understanding the questions you want answers to, so you can move the conversation quickly towards a predetermined goal. And it’s very likely that, if the meeting is not going the way you want it to go, the last thing you’re going to do is just let the customer talk. After all, the clock is ticking.

 Instead, it’s…

“Sorry can I just interrupt you there?” 


“Apologies for stopping you mid sentence but …”

The interruption apology is a strategy salespeople use to take back control of the conversation and get it back on track. But is it counterproductive? Mary Kilne, in her article ‘Let me finish: how to stop interrupting …and change the world’, reveals that your customer is unlikely to have got very far. Kilne says the average listening time is 11 seconds. Yep, just 11 short seconds! And how much of that time does a salesperson actually spend listening, rather than corralling their thoughts ready for their next verbal assault?

To interrupt or not to interrupt

What if, as Kilne suggests, not interrupting is a better tactic, even during a time-strapped sales call? What if letting the conversation flow means establishing a different relationship with the customer – one that sees you working together to solve their challenges, and possibly unearthing new requirements along the way?

It has to be better than the other way. According to Kilne, the impact of interruption is disconnection. And you can’t build trust with a disengaged customer.

So… hold back.

Kilne says that when you avoid interruption and let the conversation flow, all sorts of good things happen:

  1. You start giving the other person your full attention
  2. You’re interested in where the person will go next – in short, you follow the conversation (which means you can react to it)
  3. You share the ‘stage’ together. It’s not you talking to your customer. It’s you and your customer having a real conversation

Think about that.

Imagine working with your customer on a potential solution to a challenge you identify together during a conversation. We know that the sales journey has changed and that 77% of buyers admit that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult (Gartner). On top of that, six out of ten buyers have four or five pieces of research they’ve gathered independently (Gartner).

Buyers are looking for help in making their decisions, and in making sense of this blizzard of information. They’re not looking for the hard sell. They’ll have a lot on their minds, and a lot to get out and work through. A non-interrupted interaction, based on the natural ebb and flow of real conversation, could open sales up to becoming that most valued of contacts – the trusted advisor.

 And the prize for being a trusted advisor is worth its weight in gold…

    1. Improved client loyalty and retention
    2. Shortened sales cycles and reduced competitive threats
    3. Reduce the focus on price and increase margins and profitability.

    It sounds counterintuitive, but maybe keeping quiet, letting the other person finish and allowing the conversation to flow is the best sales tactic of all. It might even let you reach your own destination faster while cementing your relationship with a valued customer.

    If you want to develop your salespeople into sales explorers, speak to me and we’ll have a good conversation about it!

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