How Mastering the Art of Conversation Improves Your Selling Skills

BY Tim Londergan
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Within my circle of friends is Helen: a wonderfully engaging person who, to a passing stranger, would complement their hair and come away with their life story. Truly, Helen has an uncanny ability to connect without accepting the peril of strangers. Her capacity to be socially fluent, then open a brief conversation with zero pretext is remarkable. Not surprisingly, she exemplifies a number of the top selling skills needed to have a productive conversation.

Having a real conversation is one of the most prominent selling skills

Real conversations serve a critical function in selling. In fact, David Gurteen, writing for Conversational Leadership, lists fourteen purposes for which conversations exist. I could argue that each of them have a direct impact on any selling situation.

For instance, information, sense-​making and perspectives top his list. Further, the challenge to change one’s viewpoint or to generate ideas are superb reasons for a conversation. Interaction through meaningful conversation leads to collaboration, problem solving and deepened relationships.

Additionally, dialogue leads to new opportunities and can reveal hidden decision-​makers. These discussions will allow you to promote your credibility and solidify your reputation. Undeniably, the art of conversation can sharpen your selling skills and provide insight to your prospect’s needs, wants and pains.

Guidelines for effective conversation

Conversation is intuitive. However, when there is a sales quota on the line you need the conversation to be effective. Itamar Shatz, Ph.D., profiles Grice’s Maxims of Conversation and lays out four simple principles to help you avoid mistakes in communication. When plotting your exchange of ideas keep Grice’s maxims in mind:

Be informative

Grice cautions to contribute as much information as is required and no more than necessary for the current exchange.

Be truthful

Do not say what you believe to be false.” As obvious as this sounds it is important to provide supporting evidence for the claims you make in a selling situation. If you can’t back up what you say you should provide a disclaimer. Remember, your reputation is at stake.

Be relevant

Assure that all the information you provide is relevant to the current conversation. Unrelated material only clouds the message and works to obstruct your mission.

Be clear

Speak in plain terms and avoid obscurity, ambiguity and unfamiliar jargon. Be brief and orderly in your thoughts and language. The previous points relate to WHAT is said, clarity relates to HOW you say it.

Selling skills and the power of conversation

Social fluency allows my friend Helen to emotionally engage and appreciate the perspectives of others. As it turns out, that is only one of seven prerequisites for good conversation as written by Dave Pollard and profiled by David Gurteen.

Disappointingly, we’ve all had conversations with someone who is incapable or unwilling to consider an opposing position. Those people, according to the author, lack the capacity to be open to other ideas or perspectives. This condition dovetails with those who have lost the capacity to visualize anything that isn’t apparent or to put themselves in another’s shoes. Further, trying to converse with someone who lacks curiosity can be frustrating and bland.

Regardless of your selling skills, a lack of imagination, creativity or curiosity on behalf of your audience can destroy meaningful conversation. Finally, two more related prerequisites are the capacity to articulate one’s thoughts and the capacity to think critically. In the author’s words, “the ability to draw references, challenge assumptions, weigh evidence and synthesize information is essential in developing a rational thoughtful worldview and belief system”.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat​.com