When people do business with you one of the things that research tells us is that they like to be made to feel welcome. The best way to do that is to make sure that you greet them in a way that makes them feel good and then make small talk.
You do this because people hate to feel that they are being attacked by a salesperson as soon as they walk into a business. They like to buy rather than be sold and this happens if you can build rapport through “just getting to know each other”.
“Small talk” occurs when people are chatting in a friendly and relaxed way about things with which they are comfortable (preferably themselves).
The secret is to get them talking and for many of us this is a daunting task. After all you just have to look at people standing around at parties afraid to talk to strangers to make you realise how tough it can be. But, if you’ve got your ears, eyes and other senses tuned in, it’s amazing what you can learn from people in a few minutes and how relaxed and comfortable they become in talking to you.
One way to make it easy is to know the ‘W’ questions and use them to get people talking freely and happily. The poet Rudyard Kipling called those questions his serving men— who, when, where, what, why and how.
So when someone has come into your business and you’ve shaken their hand and greeted them with a warm “Welcome to Widgets, Brighton” before you get down to business you might relax them by saying “Whereabouts are you from?”
Listen to their answer carefully because this is where being able to use your eyes and ears will help you pick early clues as to what will make good small talk for them. For example, they might respond with, “Smithtown, but I had to drop the kids off at Jonesville.” Now there’s a clue— ask them about the kids. You might say, “So, how old are the kids?’ and it doesn’t need me to tell you that they are probably going to spend the next few minutes telling you all about their ankle biters.
To keep the conversation going all you need do is look and listen, nodding occasionally, and throwing in a “How come?” or a “When was that?” You can almost guarantee that, if you show interest in them, it will keep them talking and pretty soon they maybe boring you to death because they are talking about their favourite subject, the most important person in the world, themselves.
Get people talking about themself and they are going to talk a heck of a lot because, in this busy world, people are so interested in themselves that they forget to be interested in others. When we remember to do so people just lap up the attention.
Now the trick is to move from the small talk to the purpose of their visit— buying your products or services.
So, when they pause to take a breath, you might say, with genuine interest and enthusiasm in your voice, “Gee, that’s interesting. Now I suppose we’d better work out how I can solve your problems for you. What did you have in mind?”
You’ll be amazed at how effortlessly you can make the transition from small talk to business talk. You’ll be even more amazed at how many of these conversations will result in you getting the business. You’ll convert a lot more enquiries into sales… simply because you build trust, respect and confidence through small talk.
Small talk… its big talk for your business.
If you would like more resources about building client relationships, I can recommend How to KISS & Keep Your Customers & Kick the Competition and How to be BIG on Customer Service.