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Fast talking salesman

What can we learn from the “Fast talking salesman”?


It’s the stuff of legend: Fending off the fast talking salesman who will tell you benefit after benefit and do their best to trick you into buying something. Maybe you even had an encounter with one recently. Perhaps a “Chugger” on the high street, or a too sharp sales assistant in the mobile phone shop.
Is this kind of approach all bad?
We present a round-up of some very interesting research that shines light onto this kind of behaviour.
No, we don’t advocate you turn into a shady do-a-deal-at-any-cost, fast talking, shady salesperson tomorrow. However, modern psychology is putting our persuasion behaviours ever more under the microscope, so it helps us to be aware of how we influence.


Fast thinking = more charismatic

Research recently presented in the Harvard Business Review, (March 2016,) by William von Hippel, identified that individuals who responded more quickly to questions were perceived to be more charismatic. This appeared to be true regardless of IQ or personality.
Furthermore, the timing gap is small: A fast answer was less than 0.4 seconds, a slow answer in more than 0.9 seconds. The implication of this delay of 0.5 seconds can make a big difference to how clients might perceive us.
Now the fast talking salesman doesn’t seem so crazy!


Trust building & delay

Research by Steven Levinson and his colleagues has identified that across cultures, the delay between people taking turns in conversations is remarkably consistent, at around 0.1 to 0.3 seconds. This is a very short period of time, given that 0.2 seconds is typically as fast as humans can react to any external stimulus. Once this “gap” reaches 0.6 to 0.7 seconds, humans begin to suspect something is not right.
Imagine the scene: A client raises an objection and we delay as we stumble to think of a good response. How might that be perceived?
In the early stages of a customer relationship, we must recognize that trust building should be a vital component of our work. (See Dowell et al. 2012 Industrial Marketing Management for more info). It is clear from Levinson’s “turn taking” research how important our responsiveness can be. We need to be prepared if we want to make the right impression and build trust!


Speed in negotiation

As a practitioner in sales and negotiation I have noticed that speed is also a critical factor sometimes in negotiation.
Imagine a scene where a tough customer says “We will need at least 20% discount to go ahead!”
Once again, the speed of our response says everything. If we delay and say we will think about it, or look at options, or other replies, what will be the outcome? If instead, we respond very quickly with “No that’s not possible”, doesn’t our negotiating partner receives a very clear message? We effectively take away their “first mover” advantage in the blink of an eye.



Thinking, acting and talking fast do not guarantee success, and neither do they absolve us of ethical responsibility to serve clients well. Understanding the role of timing in sales interactions IS important if we are to master our craft.
If speed doesn’t come naturally, then we can aid this to a certain extent by preparing well, so we don’t have to do so much “thinking on our feet”.
Also by developing a habit of acknowledging a customer’s response / objection, even if we don’t know how exactly to respond, gives us time to formulate a better response.


Next steps

Through our sales DNA programmes, we can help you to be better prepared in front of customers.
Also, we can run an “interactions & influence” programme for your team, to update you on the very exciting research that is emerging in social psychology and its relevance to sales.
Contact helen.wilcox@sellinginteractions.com for more information.
Read our whitepaper about influence here