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Improving Conversation

by Michael Riggs, M.Ed.

There is nothing like the positive energy of a free-flowing conversation with a customer where ideas are being shared and both parties feel as if they are being heard. Conversely, there is nothing like the negative energy of a stale conversation where ideas stall and both parties can’t seem to get their point across.

effective communicationCreating a fine conversation during any stage of the relationship building and sales process can be accomplished with much less effort than you think. However, certain basic skills must be understood and mastered so the conversation flows and is purposeful.

The Power of the Pause. Pausing during conversation is a simple, yet very effective, way to accomplish your primary goal – to have a meaningful dialogue that works toward a solution of your customer’s problem.

Pausing, before replying to a statement or question, is a great compliment to the speaker. It suggests his idea was worthy of consideration and thought. It’s an effective way of saying, “That was a great idea, hmmm, let me think about that.” Additionally, a pause will allow the speaker’s thoughts to resonate in your own mind. Pausing allows you to hear more effectively.

A pause also reduces the possibility of talking over a person. Often, the speaker may not be through speaking. Instead his pause might be just a gathering of his thoughts or a contemplation of how to finish his statement. People do not like to be cut off in mid-sentence. The person being cut off, justifiably so, may feel insulted that the listener doesn’t have the courtesy to let him finish his idea or proposal. Being cut off makes a person feel unimportant. This is not a good tactic if you are trying to engage someone to eventually buy your product or service or enroll you as an advocate or advisor.

The Power of the Paraphrase. Paraphrasing, or restating in a summary format, the speaker’s statement or idea is another simple way to promote a superb conversation that builds relationships and enhances confidence. By saying, “So what I’m hearing is that you’d like….” you are making the customer feel as if you are listening and that you care enough make sure you understand his points.

Often, a listener believes he has effectively heard the speaker’s points and ideas, when in actuality the points were severely misunderstood.  By paraphrasing the speaker’s points, the listener is also making sure that both parties are “on the same page”. This will pay dividends in the short run, as it will build sense of mutual confidence and collaboration, and will also reap longer term benefit, by reducing errors due to poor communication.

The Power of Paying Attention. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer, when sharing an idea or problem with a provider, than having to make his point over again – because the provider wasn’t listening. This break down can effectively cause an entire deal to hit the wall, especially if this situation occurs early in the relationship-building period. Customers do not want to do business with providers that do not listen to their needs. They want to know that their problems are important and that the provider is listening with ears, mind and heart. Listening is the best way to tell the customer that you care. Listening builds trust. Listening builds discipline. Listening builds business.

S² Tip

When engaged in conversation, be sure to listen intently, pause purposefully and paraphrase for understanding.

Success Story

Congrats to entrepreneur Matt Snider, founder of for your creativity and perseverance in building the ultimate freshwater fishing resource in Colorado, Texas and now, Florida! Fish on!

In Another’s  Words…

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.” Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

— Mary Kay Ash, Entrepreneur