How can you help yourself make more sales, build your business and promote your personal success?

Often, it’s just by chatting -- about golf . . . or knitting . . . or gardening . . . or baseball . . . or butterflies . . . or whatever the other person might be interested in.

That’s true even if you’re really trying to sell a bulldozer . . . or a mutual fund . . . or life insurance . . . or cars . . . or clothing . . . or getting people to come to your restaurant . . . or just trying to sell yourself.

Making conversation that’s “off-topic” from what you’re trying to sell can actually be the most important part of your selling process. That’s because you must first SELL YOURSELF – build a feeling of rapport, trust and liking with the prospect -- to be most effective in selling anything else.

Let me give you an example of the power of just “making conversation,” as provided by one of my conversation skills coaching clients -- a home improvements salesman.


This salesman made a sales call about home improvements to a homeowner he had never met before.

Pausing in his car outside the house to think about how he might “break the ice,” the salesman noted the home’s beautiful landscaping.

Since he was a landscaping buff himself, he decided to compliment the homeowner on his landscaping and ask him whether it was done professionally or whether he did it himself.

He did this as a way to use his conversation to establish “common ground” and “build rapport” with the homeowner

The homeowner, who actually had done the landscaping himself, was delighted -- both by the compliment and the fact the salesman was into landscaping, too.

They proceeded to talk about landscaping for the next 30 minutes, the salesman never mentioning roofing and siding – the purpose of his sales call.


When the salesman finally introduced that subject, the homeowner was no longer dealing with just a “salesman.”

He was now dealing with someone with whom he had a common interest, someone he liked and trusted, someone with whom he had rapport.

The homeowner now, willingly and in detail, told the salesman all about the things he would like to do, now and in the future, in order fix up his house . . .

. . . and the salesman, using this information volunteered by the prospect, was able to offer right-on-target solutions, adding some ideas of his own.

The result: The homeowner signed the order on the spot – an order costing $7,000 more than he had originally planned to spend – despite the fact he had already talked to several other home improvements salesmen.


Of course the products and the price were important in his decision, but
the salesman freely admits it was his conversation with the homeowner – and the rapport that enabled him to build – that made all the difference in making this sale. Many times, such extensive conversation and small talk are not possible. But it is usually possible to make some level of conversation to build rapport with the other person -- and that can pay big dividends for you.

Widely respected research conducted by a Stanford University professor about the relative success of MBA’s 10 years after graduation illustrates the point. The research was designed to assess the impact on career success of conversational ability, as compared to the graduates' academic achievement while in college.

The study followed the careers of graduates working in many fields. The conclusion: Those who could effectively use their conversation skills and small talk ability succeeded more. Their conversation skills were a better predictor of success than their grade point averages in college.

Other studies have reinforced this finding. Research by the Roper organization showed that 65% of people who considered themselves very effective in communicating with people also described themselves as being "very successful in their careers."


There are three main reasons people don’t use their conversation skills to boost their sales and their business:

1. They confuse “talking” with conversation. You and I learned to talk at about 18 months to satisfy our own needs. Conversation that builds rapport with the other persons, however, must also satisfy the other person’s needs.

2. They don’t know how to go about making conversation. Making conversation with the purpose of building rapport requires following certain rules to get where you want to go. (This is much like driving a car, where you must follow the lines on the road, and pay attention to the traffic lights and signs to get where you want to go.)

3. They are “afraid” to hold a conversation, thinking they don’t know what to say. This is a natural human fear. This fear is particularly evident when it comes to making small talk with strangers. Many people are very uncomfortable doing this.


The way to overcome conversation problems – and put your conversation skill and rapport-building ability to work for you is quite simple:

Take conversation seriously, and use a thoughtful approach to effective conversation. Our conversation coaching approach focuses on three simple steps – all defined by the acronym APT:

Attitude. Before you even open your mouth to speak, the “attitude” you bring to making conversation with the other person speaks volumes. Your posture, facial expression and tone of voice – your “paralanguage -- all communicate instantly to the other person how interested you are in him or her . . . which will profoundly affect the outcome of your conversation. Make sure your attitude clearly communicates a positive message to the other person.

• Plan. Effective conversation, especially conversation to build rapport and achieve a business goal, takes a plan. No, it doesn’t need to be written down or elaborate. By planning, we mean thinking ahead – thinking ahead to who you might be talking to . . . taking into consideration their own needs and interests, and adapting your conversation in a way to take those into account while promoting your own objectives.

• Techniques to "engage" people. For example, you can pass someone in the hallway or on the street with a simple “Hi” and you will both go on your way. But, if this is someone you really want to “engage” in conversation to promote a sale or further your business interests by building rapport, you can also convert this chance passing into a deeper discussion simply by asking questions and volunteering information yourself.

How to help yourself make more sales to build your business or just sell yourself? Put conversation to work for you.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Barton is a conversation coach who shows people how to quickly develop and use their conversation skills to build rapport and relationships to help achieve their personal goals in business, sales, social and personal life. He offers coaching both on the phone and in-person. Mr. Barton is the author of How To Be GREAT!!! In Conversation, How To Build Rapport and Relationships and How to Make People WANT To Buy From You.