Have you ever experienced this while having a conversation: A friend asks you a thoughtful question like, “How are your kids doing or tell me about that exciting vacation?” You think to yourself, “Isn’t that nice, my friend is showing some genuine interest in my life.” But then, about 30 seconds into your response, your friend is half listening, already looking at their phone to see what notification or text just came in.
Light up a room
Two interpersonal communication skills – or selling skills if you wish – were in play during the example with your friend, who got high marks for skill #1, thoughtful engagement, but failed at skill #2 – being in the present. When used together, these skills can light up a room. When misused, the person answering the question is left with a sense of emptiness – not a good feeling for a friend or a prospect.
Reasons for thoughtful engagement
I am huge advocate of asking questions in the selling process to understand the needs of the prospect. Thoughtful engagement goes beyond that, as the goal is to strengthen the relationship, to learn something about your client or to kill the deafening silence that occurs during a business lunch because your client or prospect is lacking when it comes to communication.
I have written before about the importance of being prepared and doing some research before a meeting. It will allow you to have some questions in your arsenal that your client or prospect will be happy to answer. Some examples:
Have you always been an administrator for legal offices, or have you worked in other industries?
Was there one particular factor that pointed you to the career path you are on?
Do you have any exciting vacation plans next year?
Did you grow up in this town?
Not enough questions as adults
A February 2021 Forbes article points to some evidence that we do not ask enough questions: “Remember when you were a child, and questions and curiosity were a natural part of your interactions with the world around you? There was always a wondering ‘why’ and inquisitive ‘how – much to the bewilderment of the adults in our lives. Over time, children grow up, learning that giving answers is more important, whether it is in the form of exams, interviews or being able to contribute in conversation. As adults, we begin to question the people and world around us less. Turns out, according to the Harvard Business Review, many adults with children estimate that about 70-80% of their children’s dialogues were made up of questions. Among the adults, the estimate was 15-25%.”
Advice from a legend
“Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering,” said Dale Carnegie, almost a century ago in his notable self-help book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Carnegie was right – people love to talk about their lives, their careers, their families and their passions. Thoughtful engagement: Try it, but do not neglect skill #2, being in the present.
The power of charisma
An article in Greater Good Magazine makes the connection between being in the present and charisma: “If you meet someone who is completely attentive to you and actively engaged in the conversation, you are much more likely to find them likable and interesting. If that person’s cell phone rings without them checking it, they get double brownie points. Why? Because in that moment, the only thing that seems to matter to them is you. You are the most important person there, and they have gifted you all their attention at that moment.”
The article’s author, Emma Seppala, writes that “a charismatic person is able to exert significant influence because he or she connects with others in meaningful ways. It’s no surprise that highly charismatic people — U.S. presidents are a frequent example — are often described as having the ability to make you feel as if you were the only person in the room. Given how rare it is to receive that kind of attention from anyone, the ability to be fully present makes a big impression.”
A noticeable difference
A friend of mine recently talked to me about his experience dealing with two different Disney CEOs – Michal Iger, who recently took back the reins at Disney, and another Disney CEO, who shall remain nameless. “Before we sat down for our meeting, Iger knew something about my career and immediately asked me a couple questions about my career path. He was warm and made excellent eye contact. That other CEO did no research, was highly distracted and was clearly just going through the motions. It’s no surprise that Iger is now back at the helm,” he said.
In 2023, be prepared, ask questions, put the cell phone away and be attentive – be in the present for your clients, prospects and friends. Using these basic techniques will strengthen your relationships and inevitably, lead to increased success and even more referrals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/VendingMarketWatch.com. He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. Tullio’s b2b Perspective Channel has developed a loyal YouTube following.
Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”