4 Great Ways To Be A Better Conversationalist

Have genuine conversations that lead to sales opportunities by following these 4 rules that tell you what to say--and what not to say.
CEO & Founder, The Non-Obvious Company
September 13, 2013

We have all met people who are amazing conversationalists, and wondered "how do they do it?" They're smooth without being too smooth, interesting without being condescending, and genuinely enjoyable to talk with. And they can turn any conversation into a sales opportunity. For many of us, it feels awkward to talk about sales while people are socializing—but it's not the topic that's awkward, it's the way we approach the conversation that makes it so uncomfortable.

Remember, conversations are just what they are—nothing more—and it's up to you to find the right ways to bring up your business and what you do. But the good news is, it doesn't have to be awkward. How do you do that without devolving your conversations into something that seems like a sales pitch? The trick is in the following four sentences.

1. Do say: "What are you really excited about right now?"
Don't say: "What do you do?"

One of the reasons that so many people dread networking events is because of the "What do you do?" question. We generally hate to describe what we do and rarely have a way to share it that we're happy with. Asking the alternative question about what someone is excited about now is rarely hard to talk about. Most people will have an answer to that question that is far more interesting than the recitation of their job title and company. More importantly, when anyone shares something they are excited about, their tone changes and the conversation improves right away.

2. Do say: "That reminds me of ..."
Don't say: "What I do is ..."

Instead of listening to someone just while you're waiting for your own chance to speak, try actively listening, which means paying attention to what someone else shares with you. When you do that, you can find the right way to share something back that relates to their conversation—and make a deeper connection.

3. Do say: "How can I help you?"
Don't say: "How can you help me?"

This is easily the most powerful sentence you can say, because it demonstrates that you're ready and willing to offer help to someone else in a generous way. The conversations and moments that it opens up for people to share their own stories, and authentically seek your help, can be amazing.

4. Do say: "What I believe is ..."
Don't say: "What I did this summer was ..."

As fall approaches, a common question from people is about what you did all summer. Rather than giving the same boring story about visiting the beach (or something similar), why not shift the conversation to talk about the passions that you may have and beliefs that you hold and perhaps share? Digging deeper in this way helps you get beyond the superficial to have better conversations.

You might be thinking that these sentences could also just be gimmicks to try and sell something ... and the truth is that most of them probably could be. The key to making any of these techniques work first and foremost is that you need to actually care about the person you are talking to and his or her story. If you don't, then no framework can help you fake a successful sales conversation.

Read more articles on sales.

Photo: Getty Images

CEO & Founder, The Non-Obvious Company