Relationship building is crucial for success in most industries.
This requires building a network and getting to know people. You need to understand what they need and want and, to earn trust, need to share the same about yourself.
But, to get to that point, we probably need to start with small talk. Small talk helps put others at ease, establishes a connection between two individuals, and it’s easy and polite.
The Simplest Ways to Engage in Small Talk with Prospective Clients
Do Some Research
You don’t have to stalk the person, but it does help if you have some talking points beyond the weather or the future of your local sports team. If it’s someone you’ve met with before, look back into your notes to refresh your memory on their family, hobbies, or alma mater. If you haven’t met them before, you might want to do a quick Google or social media search on them. Or at least know a few tidbits about the company, its history, and the scope of its work.
Avoid Starting with Work
Starting off by immediately talking about business seems rude and disrespectful. It shows you’re more about hitting your quota or your own goals than about developing a relationship and learning about their wants and needs. Start with something fun and personal that helps you build a longer-lasting connection.
Start with What’s Immediately in Front of You
This might be the simplest tip of all. You don’t have to overthink it, start with the weather or the building itself. Ask how long the company has been in business or how long that individual has been with the company.
Find Where They’re Comfortable
Listen carefully and take cues from the other person about where they’re comfortable taking the conversation. Focus on asking questions about them, so that they feel important without feeling self-conscious.
Share Small Bits About Yourself
Though you want to focus more on the other person than on yourself, you still need to share small bits about yourself to help you earn their trust and make a connection. Whether this is your passion for sports, music or a hobby, by sharing some insight on yourself you open up a line of communication that can continue throughout the relationship.
Always Close the Conversation
Before you walk away or leave the person, end the conversation with an unambiguous closing. If you simply wander away or duck out unannounced, it’s a little awkward, not to mention disrespectful to the connection you just made. It looks as though you’re treating the other person with disregard, like your relationship with them isn’t all that important. Instead, say something like, “well, it’s been great chatting with you. I enjoyed hearing about… Thank you for your time,” and then mention your next follow-up—that they should expect an email or phone call from you.
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