I always find it interesting when science validates conventional wisdom. It’s both satisfying to know you were on the right track, and angst-inducing to know that following that wisdom is no longer an option. Such is the case with the traditional sales notion that you should “listen more than you speak.”

In a recent blog post, Chris Orlob, Senior Director of Product Marketing at our long-time partner Gong.io, highlighted a number of interesting takeaways his team found after applying machine learning to 25,537 B2B sales conversations from 17 of their customer organizations. One such takeaway was, you guessed it, the talk-to-listen ratio of those sales calls directly impacted their win rates.

The Average Rep Talks Too Much

So, how is the average B2B sales rep doing? Not so great as it turns out. Going.io found that the average B2B sales rep speaks 65–75% of the total time on the call. While many sales reps would try to explain this away as a normal breakdown for a call that’s being run by the rep, it’s easy to see why this is a problem if you focus on the value of a call.

This is what the average sales dialogue looks like

For all intents and purposes, it’s pretty safe to say that the time you spend talking on a call provides you with no value. You already know everything you’re saying. You’re not uncovering any new information for yourself. The only way for you to get value from a call is if it is coming from the prospect.

From that perspective, it’s easy to see why only getting 25% of the potential value from a call can be a big problem.

There is an Ideal Ratio

So what? Isn’t this all just conjecture until you can tie it to results? You’re right, so let’s look at some results.

When analyzing the talk-to-listen ratio of the top performers from their sample of 25,537 conversations, Gong.io discovered that the top closers talked less than bottom or even average performers. A lot less. While average performers spoke over 50% of the time, top closers never spoke more than they listened.

Based on the talk-to-listen ratio of these top performers, Gong.io was cable to determine the ideal ratio for the most successful sales calls. The ideal talk to listen ration is 43:57 in favor of listening. It doesn’t have to be by much, but the conventional wisdom holds true: listen more than you talk.

Room for Improvement

If you’re a big talker with a lot of room to grow in the listening department, don’t despair. Gong.io also found that you don’t need to hit that exact ratio to see results. Every little improvement you make has an impact on the success of you’re calls. You don’t have to change your style overnight. The chart below shows that an increase in the prospect’s talk-time from 22% to 33% can significantly increase opportunity win-rates.

So you’ve got no excuse. The conventional wisdom of “listen more than you speak” has proved more true than anyone could have guessed, and there’s real improvement to be had for any sales reps willing to listen just a bit more.

Big thanks to Chris and Gong for the incredible data. If you want to learn about your own sales call habits, check out our integration that syncs all the power of Gong directly into SalesLoft.