• James Haldane

The Art of (Business) Conversation in 7 Steps / don't say dum stuff

Updated: Sep 7


Cold Leads, Warm Leads, Hot Leads, Cappuccino Leads. It doesn’t matter what you call them because it’s all about the Art of Conversation.

Trying to be a great communicator is not the first step. It’s more important to avoid doing and saying Dum Stuff.

1. Don’t Say Dum Stuff

“How are you today?” Is inauthentic, you don’t care how they are. 

“Is this a good time to talk?” On a Cold Call, there’s never a ‘good time’ because you're a stranger. Get straight to the point in your opening sentence. Most Cold Calling should only focus on sending an email Brainstorming with your team will help you create an Opening Line. Note: “Is this a good time to talk?” is essential to say on Warm Calls because they have Reached Out to you first. Saying this, signals to the customer that you respect their time.


“What did you say your name was?” It seems like a fair question to ask if someone mumbles their name. But the customer may interpret this question as “can’t you even say your own name!” Write down what you think they said, and clarify later.


“Sorry it’s our policy.” Policy changes over time with feedback. Maybe this is the time to change your Policy or make an exception. How would you like to be on the 6pm News because you said “it’s our policy” to someone in distress.


“I’m sorry you were offended.” Apologising without apologising. Silly and Annoying.


“There’s nothing I can do.” Wrong!


“But,” is a word used to start an argument.


“As I said before.” Sounds like you are ‘talking down’


“Is there anything else I can help you with.” Be careful of your tone. You don’t want it to sound like, “I’ve got better things to do.”


“Speaking to.” Not a huge problem, “talking with” sounds better.

2. Don’t Do Dum Stuff

Guessing Answers If you are not sure what they are asking, and you guess the answer, and it’s the wrong answer, you’ve lost their trust, foreverrrrr.

Placing a customer ‘on hold’ without explaining why or asking permission.

Don’t try and trick me Pretending you’re their Long Lost Friend by opening with, “How have you been!?”

Answering simple questions, with questions If a customer in a shop asks, “where’s the milk?” “The fresh milk is in isle 1 and the long-life milk is in isle 2.” is a better answer than, “which milk?” (just like the TV advertisement)

Don’t try to Overcome their Objections If you’re on a Cold Call, acknowledge and record their objection for later. Never argue or disagree on a Cold Call. If the vibe becomes tense, try one more time to get an outcome. Then end the conversation on a pleasant note.

Don’t interrupt The more they talk, the more you learn. When they finish talking, wait 2 seconds, then reply.

Re-frame and Lead with the Positive Instead of saying “No we don’t have a rooftop bar.” It’s better to say “Yes our rooftop bar will be opening next week. If you want to book a function I can give you a tour now, the view is spectacular. Or you can have a drink in our poolside bar down this hallway.”

3. Delightful without Bubbles

Imagine it’s lunchtime, you’re in a restaurant in France with a group of friends. The waiter has a serious tone about him. Maybe too serious? However you soon learn the waiter lives upstairs. It’s his family’s restaurant. They make the wine you are drinking and everything on the menu is grown locally by his friends. He is not bubbly, but you trust what he says. A delightful, unforgettable lunch.

The point of this story? Being bubbly, charming or even ‘good with people’ is not essential for great service. Service is multi-dimensional. Be your authentic self. Have your own style and try to smile. As long as your intentions are good, you do your best to serve, learn from your mistakes and continuously improve; then you’re a success.

If creating rapport with people doesn’t feel natural to you, don’t do it. Because in the long run, solving problems beats bubbles.

4. How, are you talking to me?

Speaking slowly, clearly and courteously is essential. Repeat. Slow + Clear + Courteous = Essential.

Don’t raise your voice, there’s no need.

Formal isn’t fun and subservient is silly. Choose the Middle Path.

5. “Are You Talkin To Me!?”

If someone is rude to you, detach yourself and respectfully discontinue. When you become more experienced you can sometimes 'flip' the problem


6. BE PREPARED with Questions and Scripts

  • Scripts are essential, until you are confident to work without them

  • Scripts allow new staff to become operational quickly

  • Scripts give you the knowledge to speak like an expert Experts ask questions; to find problems; in order to find solutions. Allowing you to eventually become their trusted advisor If the customer thinks you are knowledgeable and can help them they will let you ask them questions

  • Scripts safeguard your Business. If your top salesperson leaves, you have their script

  • When phoning customers, have information stuck on your walls, so you can quickly answer questions

  • Brainstorming with colleagues is a great way to create scripts

Questioning Stakeholders (Procurement) Many years ago you could sell to one person, within a Large Organisation. Today, a Procurement Team may be involved, because if many departments will be using your product, then many departments could be involved in the purchase process i.e. become Stakeholders in the Procurement process. Which means you may be selling to I.T., Accountants, Salespeople, Technicians, Customer Service … Each will have different concerns So be prepared and ask questions about each Stakeholders concerns.

7. Have Fun

Before you phone. Scan their website for ‘talking points’.

  • “How was your weekend? I went surfing.” 

  • “Is your office above that Star Wars themed cafe?” 

  • “Wow, you’re in New Zealand, I’ve always wanted to go there” 

Enjoy the Call.

Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Australia  0412 377 309  james@jameshaldane.com.au

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