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Make small talk "on purpose" when selling

Salespeople know that time is money, so why do so many sellers squander a high percentage of face time on useless, empty topics like traffic and weather? Yes, small talk is an important segue into presentation content, but that doesn't mean you have to give it star billing. This article will inspire you to make the most of your sales presentation pre-roll in physical meetings, on phone calls and on Zoom.


This virtual keynote is jammed with strategies to help you master the art of first impressions.


Of course, it's a good idea to develop rapport, and yes, sometimes it may take ten minutes of a half-hour meeting to get the job done. So why not use the early part of the visit to advance your agenda and simultaneously serve the prospect?

Here are some "small-talk" topics that consume time, but don’t do much to facilitate a sale:

  • Weather

  • Sports

  • Politics

  • Parking

  • Traffic

  • How busy you are

  • How busy the customer is

Before covering nutritious alternatives to small talk, let's make sure you have solid strategies for avoiding empty conversation.

If the prospect greets you with a comment about the weather, simply acknowledge her statement and quickly move on to more purposeful conversation. There's no need to put your own spin on how much it's been raining. Your reply will invite her to respond, then for you to react to what she says, and before you know it, the two of you are comparing this year's rainfall to past years, precipitation in other countries and so on. If you get to set the tone, you might skip talking about the weather completely and open with a friendly, but direct statement such as, "It's good to see you again! I wanted to chat with you about two new developments on our project."

"(Gasp!) But what if I can't talk about the weather?"

Of course, it's not a good idea to skip all of the preamble and launch right into the serious stuff. So what are good topics for the front part of your time with prospects? You might talk about:

  • How impressed you are with the person you're talking to

  • How impressive that person's company is

  • Find out more about her passions and hobbies

  • Ask about her family or next vacation

  • Get her opinion on an industry trend (stay away from negative topics)

Changing an old habit can be hard Hang in there as you find your way toward more direct, helpful communication.

A few seconds of small talk may be useful, but move toward purposeful conversation and your sales will improve.  You can always talk about last night's big game after the person places an order.

[Here's a bit about my keynote: Selling Through Conversation. This content is also available in a training and coaching format.] You have a finite amount of time to spend with prospects and customers.  Make your small talk big. Make small talk on purpose.

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