Look at anyone successful in sales and you’ll find they’re great at the art of conversation. If that sounds easy, think again. Holding an engaging sales conversation takes a lot of skill.
Here are 10 useful pointers:
- Don’t just talk. You might think you need the gift of the gab and a store of useful facts at your fingertips, but conversation takes two. It’s like a game of ping pong – you bat the ball into the other person’s court and they bat something back. The secret is to keep the other person involved by asking good questions and responding appropriately.
- Start casually. It’s tempting to dive in with the virtues of your product or service, but don’t be in a hurry. Take it easy; make a simple friendly remark or question to get the ball rolling. Pop simple question tags on the end of your remarks to encourage a response. Building on generalities, as you find out more you can steer the conversation towards your goals.
- Tune in. It’s important to tune into the other person’s energy. If they seem calm, speak calmly. If they’re enthusiastic, show more energy. They’ll feel you’re on their wavelength and you’ll build a good connection. Tune into voice tone and body language as well, to pick up nuances you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
- Be curious. What makes this person tick? The more you understand where they are coming from, the better you know how to influence the conversation. Gems of useful information spring from small talk when you’re genuinely interested in the other person.
- Listen. How can you possibly sell if you know nothing about the other person? By listening well and gently probing, you get to know the individual and what they want. This is very different from reeling off the benefits of what you have to sell. It feels better for the other person too.
- Tell stories. Stories inspire and persuade, and do more to sell your product or service than a legion of facts. They don’t need to be long, but make them personal.
- You don’t have to agree with everything. There’s something creepy about a salesperson who blandly agrees with everything we say. You need to be more than just a mirror of the other person. Introduce one or two different views - it makes for a more lively and enjoyable conversation and feels more genuine to both parties.
- Reveal your passion. Let the other person see your interest, pleasure and passion. Demonstrating what you care about is the quickest way to form a connection, and worth a thousand words of sales patter.
- Be real. You may be tempted to bluff clients to appear more professional than you really are, but people tend to distrust artificial swagger. When you’re open and at ease you build people’s trust, and that’s when relationships blossom. Realise that you’re far more interesting when you are genuine. Take the risk!
- Focus on your goal – but not doggedly. There’s nothing more oppressive that chatting to someone who is obsessed with a sale. Be interested in the connection, learn something, have a good time, enjoy the exchange. You’ll be far easier to talk to – and more likely to achieve your sale. Don’t expect anything, but be ready for everything!
By Judy Apps is author of The Art of Conversation