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Know When To Stop

A commercial I saw a while back depicts a man in a variety of situations – extemporizing a handshake with a new boss, about to bet all his winnings at a gaming table, poised to take a good-night kiss to the next level — when a horn alerts him that he’s gone far enough. Then it shows him putting air in his tires as the announcer says, “Now you’ll know when to stop – the all new Nissan Altima with easy-fill tire alert.”

It’s a clever spot that demonstrates something I’ve come to realize more and more  – that there’s a real talent in knowing when to stop. Whether your painting a picture, designing an application, writing a business plan, or just engaging in conversation, knowing when you’ve made your point or accomplished your purpose is of crucial importance. In other words, don’t overdo whatever it is you’re engaged in doing.

Nowhere does this rule apply more than in salesmanship. When you see heads nodding yes in a sales meeting, don’t start selling more features or discussing additional benefits – stop and close your presentation. That’s also true of  conference calls — make your point and stop talking. Or at least pause long enough to find out the reaction of the other participants before going any further.  The best way to lose a sale is not knowing at what point to stop delivering your sales pitch once you’ve clinched it.

We’ve all known long-winded people who rattle on and on about something, only to have little of what they said actually register. By contrast, many of the most effective and memorable messages are those that are the most condensed.  A classic example of both these phenomena was provided by two speeches that were delivered on the same historic occasion – one of them by a distinguished orator, the other by someone invited as an afterthought to deliver “a few appropriate remarks.” The former’s speech ran on for two hours, but what he said was little noted nor long remembered. The second lasted perhaps five minutes, but turned out to be one of the most revered pieces of oratory in history: Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

I could go on with other examples of the importance of understanding when it’s the appropriate time to bring anything you’re doing to a close  – but I think you get my drift by now. So I’ll take my own advice and …stop right here.

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