The Lost Art of the Conversation

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Think long and hard back to the last time you had a great phone conversation. One where you were fully invested in the call. Not clicking away on emails as they buzzed in your Bluetooth. Not worried about cutting over in traffic to get to your office in time for a donut. Not tapping away at Candy Crush as you float mindlessly away from the minor details being bandied about.

We all know the adage about the rise of technology. How texts and e-mails are replacing face-to-face meetings and phone calls. But much the same could be said about the advent of e-mails, or the fax before them. As modern communication expands and contracts, the art of conversation is woefully becoming underserved.

Which is why I’m writing to you today. I write because I can’t call each and every one of you up and tell you about how all of this makes me feel. Luckily for us, the written word has only gained in power thanks to the internet. The key now is, of course, to hold your attention long enough to make my point. Let’s give it a good ole’ college try!

For much of what DreamCSX does for our partners, much of it can be occur via the phone. Whether we’re stoking the fires— filling a sales funnel by qualifying leads— or acting as customer support, the gift of gab must be strong for us to be successful. The best salesman or customer service professionals in any industry all share a handful of similar traits regarding the art of conversation:

It starts and ends with listening.

The only sale bending a customer’s ear off has ever netted has come strictly out of nuisance (or pity). But that customer isn’t ever going to convert into an evangelist — the type who proactively refers you new business. Simply put: the best talkers make the best listeners. Your customers, even if they are a cold call, have all the answers on their lips. No amount of slick wordplay will coax their problems out to be solved. You can lead with “yes questions” until you’re blue in the face; it won’t make a lick of difference if the person on the other end of the line sees where you’re headed a mile away.

A question is far more powerful than the answer.

In college, I was a support technician in the computer lab. My job was to help students coming in with any number of odd requests pertaining to their computer assignments. As customer support then, I found the best way to solve a problem was to ask questions. Knowing the how’s and why’s problems occurred helped me dive to the right answers quicker. Furthermore, that knowledge from the customer provided me context — which in turn allowed me to help them seek solutions for future problems I knew they’d encounter later. It saved me time and energy down the road, and it helped our department be regarded as fixers the entire school could count on.

Stay in the now at all times.

I’ve come to realize in each and every sales call I’ve been on — where I’m the one being pitched at — there’s a small window where I am truly all in. I have a problem. This salesman has the answer. We all know the dance, of course. It begins with benign small talk. A few local details are bandied about (sports, weather, pop culture, what-have-you). Then the selling begins. Where good sales teams rise and others fall comes right at that turn. From a benign comment about how hot is in in Tempe to how you need what they are selling. In one fell swoop, you’ll either inch your volume up a bit on the receiver and start taking notes… or you’ll click over to your inbox, and start looking at your calendar. The key as the person doing the selling is to know when and how to bend the conversation. Too abrupt, and your customer feels sold to. Too long in the tooth, and they feel like you’re wanting a friend, not a sale. Professionalism merges those extremes; forcing your customer to admit their pain points, while feeling that you’ve heard them and are seeking the solution with them with your product or service. And all of that happens in the now. Not with an anecdote about your dog, or a lengthy lecture about the 10 features that separate you from the guy down the street.

Let’s end the call.

The art of the conversation is not dying. It’s becoming emoticon-laden TXT messages, and gif-filled e-mail chains. The tenants to success remain the same though. Keep your ears open, your mind nimble, and ask more than you tell. The best conversations create the best relationships. If you work at them, time will beget success. And if you’d like a good example of how that works in the real world?

Go ahead… give us a call.