How often is “How are you?” part of your initial dialogue with a prospect or client? This age-old nicety certainly isn’t helping drive a valuable conversation, so it’s time to give it a rest. As Aja Frost writes for HubSpot, “When you’ve only got a couple minutes to build rapport with someone, you don’t want to waste time on conversational fluff. Instead of falling into the ‘Good, how are you?’ trap, drive the conversation forward with a unique follow-up. She goes on to share nine conversation kickstarters that actually engage you with the other person.
The next time you start up a conversation, consider asking, “What projects are you working on?”. This open-ended question encourages a response of more than just one word. This also demands the other person’s full attention; he or she is immediately engaged and tasked with a response that requires some thought. And finally, you will get so much valuable insight into his or her workload, goals, interests, and plans.
Another replacement question is, “How is your [day of the week] going?”. While this is similar to asking how the person is, it’s a bit fresher and not as overused. It also doesn’t encourage a knee-jerk reaction answer but rather gets the person to actually consider how the day is going. And likely, he or she will elaborate. “Most people will also feel compelled to add an explanation, such as, ‘My team has a big deadline coming up, so I’ve been busier than normal’,” Frost explains. “ You’ll get the opportunity to ask a follow-up question (and learn more about their goals and challenges while you’re at it).”
These and Frost’s other suggestions are unique replacements for the tired “How are you?” question. Her suggestions will encourage a valuable dialogue and show that you have a genuine interest in what the other person is saying (all of which helps you be memorable and stand out from competitors).