We’ve all been there, trying to hold a
conversation with a complete stranger, only to be pushed right out of our comfort zone. It
can happen at a social event, a business meeting, or sitting in the stands at
your kids basketball game. A conversation begins innocently enough, but either
by your own accord or the other person, it gets pushed into a corner where you
or the other person become lost and can no longer be a part of the discussion.
Here's a recent example I went through:
I was at my daughter’s basketball game and sat down next to another dad from
her team. He’s a very pleasant person and is a surgeon by trade. We had about
10 minutes before game time and we so we began to chat. The typical “nice day”,
“girls have been looking good out there” kind of stuff. And then, without
giving it much thought, I asked how work was going. Without skipping a beat
Larry jumped right into telling me all about a recent procedure that was way
above my head. Unfortunately, Larry did not pick up on my queue’s and kept
going right up until tipoff.
Larry is a brilliant surgeon, but in
social settings, he is a bit awkward when it comes to being able to hold a
general conversation. And, because of this, he loses people like he did me. He
is not what I call a conversation generalist.
Sales people must learn to become
conversation generalists. It is not a difficult skill set to learn, but it does
require commitment and time. You, the sales person, must be willing to read.
And I mean read, read, read. Think about breaking the ice when you first enter
a sales call. In almost all cases you exchange pleasantries with the other
person by entering into a brief conversation. But, what do you talk about?
Keeping up on the headlines, especially
locally, may be a start. Another way is to prep yourself with a little
background on the person you’re meeting with and reading up on something that
may be of personal interest. For example, if the person you’re meeting with is
a youth sports coach, find something relatable that you can discuss.
Over the course of my nearly twenty-five
year career I’ve watched many a sales person lose the deal before it even
started because they could not break the ice and hold a general conversation
with the person across from them. They were either stopped in their tracks with
fear of what to say or they jumped immediately into their pitch. Nothing has
changed. Sales people still need to master the art of the general conversation.