Conversation is how we continually increase our sales, retain our customers and reveal opportunities. It is the key to exceeding expectations and creating consistent business growth, yet many of us have developed the habit of avoiding conversation. We default to text communication where we can edit our words, respond at any time, feel more efficient. And, as with any skill we abandon, we’ve become more awkward, intimidated and uncomfortable when it’s time to talk.
How can we strengthen our conversation skills? What are the elements of great conversation?
1. The first step to strengthening your conversation skills is simple – practice. With family, friends, prospects and clients put yourself in a position where you are speaking to them in real time more often. Next time you poise your fingers above your keyboard, ask yourself if a conversation would be more efficient, more appreciated, more productive, and then … pick up the phone and make it happen.
2. Start with your interest in the other person. A great conversation is not going to be all about you. Be ready to ask about the other person based on what you know. Have they been travelling recently? What’s new at their company? What about their hobbies or volunteer work? And their family? Sometimes you’ll know these details; sometimes you’ll have to do some research but the extra effort will allow you to create amazing conversations.
3. Listening is essential. You can’t listen and be thinking about your response. You can’t listen and check email. You can’t listen and fret about what you need to do next. Listening is a full-focus, in-the-moment activity where you put aside assumptions, expectations and intent. You want to hear the other person’s words as well as what’s behind those words – emotions, questions, ideas.
4. Ask questions – and keep asking. Use the words who, when, where, what, and why to guide the conversation. Or simply say, “Tell me more.”
5. Share your stories, thoughts and ideas. This is the “flow” of conversation when two people find themselves learning about each other and appreciating each other’s personal experiences. This is where relationship lives, where trust is built. It’s where sales happen, clients become loyal, and opportunities are revealed.
Recently I enjoyed an amazing conversation with Jim Brown, of SalesTuners and Share Your Genius. At one point Jim said, “I’m absolutely loving this conversation,” and so was I! He expressed interest in my personal life, asked thoughtful open-ended questions, and shared his own experiences. If you want to dig deeper into the art of conversation, you can listen in through Jim’s podcast: https://www.salestuners.com/mary-jane-copps/