How To Turn Small Talk Into Big Opportunities

Does the thought of small talk make your blood pressure rise? Whether it’s from annoyance or fear, this is a common reaction. However, mastering the art of polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters (as defined by Oxford Dictionaries) is an important part of succeeding in the business world.

The author enjoying small talk at a conference.

Small talk can lead to big opportunities if you smile and play your cards right.

How can you turn small talk into big opportunities?

  • Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: Does your company’s CEO have memorabilia from a baseball team in his office? He’s probably a fan. When you share an elevator ride with him, that’s a good topic to bring up. Note what your co-workers display in their work areas; these items are usually important to them and make excellent conversation starters.
  • Listen: We’ve talked before about the importance of listening, but we can’t stress its benefits enough. Be present in a conversation. Don’t spend the time someone else is talking forming your response; listen to what she’s saying. It could be interesting, it could be useful and it could even lead to an opportunity. Perhaps Sally in accounting or a fellow business professional at an event has a connection to a job opportunity you’re eyeing or with a company you’d like to bring on as a customer.
  • Have a Conversation, Don’t Pitch: You’re heading out after a long day, and the CEO happens to be heading out at the same time. Be friendly, say hello and put your aforementioned knowledge of his favorite baseball team to use. Don’t spring your great idea on him as he’s heading to the parking lot. Use chance meetings or opportunities to say hello and build rapport. You’re more likely to be given a platform for your ideas if the right people know who you are and what value you bring to the company. Aggressively cornering them at the Holiday party isn’t the right way to make that happen.
  • Help Others First: Influential people, online or in real life, are used to being asked for favors by people they don’t even know. Be different: offer to help people in your network when you can. Be genuine, show interest and care about other people. Don’t offer to help someone only to expect something in return, or only offer assistance to those in a position to help you. We live in a global, mobile world today, so you never know when you’ll need someone’s help later on — like Sally in accounting.

Related reading: How to turn small talk into smart conversation

Start viewing small talk as an opportunity to get to know others around you instead of a waste of time, and you may be surprised at the results. Remember to pay attention to your surroundings, listen, be conversational and help others first. Your efforts will pay off in the long run in business and in life.

What small talk tips would you add?

Do you enjoy networking events?

A converted networker,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small talk, your communication needs or otherwise):
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Evaluating Feedback: How to Listen to What’s Not Being Said

In our last post, we talked about how the gift-giving process makes you a better marketer. The final similarity discussed was evaluating your feedback, which is crucial to your success in marketing.

Local Call by Wes Peck via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Local Call by Wes Peck via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The problem is that it can be difficult to evaluate your feedback. Prospects and customers are human, so they’re complex. Perhaps they fit your buyer persona except for one crucial aspect, which is causing your marketing to miss the mark.

Another issue is that human beings want to position themselves in the best light possible. Said another way, peer pressure never goes away. Focus groups can lie, surveys can mislead and customers can tell you they want things that they really don’t.

How can you evaluate feedback from prospects and customers?

  • Develop Buyer Personas, Not Stereotypes — Buyer personas are a fantastic (and necessary) way to attract the right leads, but don’t rely on stereotypes. Research, research, research. You may find subtle differences between members of a persona, so you can adjust your message accordingly.

Why Consumer Intent Is More Powerful Than Demographics

  • Know Your Customers —  Once someone becomes your customer, go beyond the persona. Get to know your customer as much as possible. What keeps her up at night? How does she go about her day? Knowing her hobbies, personality and routine can be the difference between servicing a customer and creating a loyal client.

The Art of Follow-Up

  • Listen (and Pay Attention) — When you’re talking to a customer, listen to what he has to say. Don’t check email or mentally prepare your to-do list for the next day. Focus on your customer. If you’re meeting face-to-face, take in non-verbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions. Listening is an art form that can strengthen relationships and develop trust.

Trust is the most powerful currency in business

  •  Study Psychology — Don’t worry, you don’t need a degree. But understanding basic psychological concepts can help you develop relationships, business or otherwise. Learn about the different types of personalities, how the human brain processes various types of information and how emotions play into our decision-making process.

5 Quirks of the Human Brain Every Marketer Should Understand

Evaluating feedback can be difficult but is a necessary part of the marketing process, especially during the Close and Delight phases. (Huh?) So remember to stay away from stereotypes, get to know your customers, listen and pay attention to them and understand the psychology that drives how human beings think and act. You (and your customers) will be glad you did.

What tips would you add on evaluating feedback?

How do you get to know your customers?

Do you use psychology to do your job?

W’d love to hear your feedback!
Jaime

Let’s chat (about evaluating feedback, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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33 Lessons in 33 Years

I recently came across a fun post, 32 Lessons from 32 Years of Life. The timing was perfect as I was pondering what to post about on my birthday (Yep, Pisces here.), and I had actually been toying with the idea of this type of post.

I hope you find these short lessons useful, and please feel free to chime in with your own at the end. So, here goes… lessons I’ve learned from 33 years of living:

1. You’re only as good as your word. Don’t break it. (Read: If You Say You’re Going To Do Something, Do It!)

2. Take care of your body. It’s the only one you have.

kicking toward the finish line

Running makes me happy and clears my mind. What’s your favorite activity?

3. Own your decisions. You are responsible for you — not anyone else.

4. Pay it forward. Karma has a way of reciprocating. You’ll  benefit more than those you help anyway. Trust me.

5. Make time for you. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary to recharge and be at your best.

6. Some “vices” are OK. If you really enjoy something, do it (unless it harms others).

7. Pay attention. You’ll learn so much by being observant, in business and in life.

8. Learn from the past, look forward to the future, but live in the present. It’s the best show there is. If you’re constantly reliving things or worrying about future events, you’ll miss a lot of wonderful moments.

9. Learn to give — and receive — constructive criticism. (“This is terrible” or “you’re stupid” is not constructive.)

10. Listen, listen, listen. It will take you far in life.

11. Follow your gut. It’s your instinct for a reason.

12. Try new things — foods, adventures, travels. You never know what you’ll fall in love with. (Like ice skating, for me.)

ice skating

Snow, wind & ice. Lots of ice. Enjoying some time on the pond — the best part of winter.

13. Respect your values and beliefs. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it’s OK to walk away. (Read: Gray Area: Do Ethics Still Have a Place in Business?)

14. An interview is a two-way conversation about an opportunity. Relax.

15. The devil IS in the details. Handle those and the rest will follow.

16. Do something special for yourself monthly, or more often if you can. Because you’re worth it. (Thanks, L’Oreal.)

17. Don’t project your bad day outward. Just because you’re in a bad mood, everyone else doesn’t have to be.

18. Social media’s great, but get social in real life too. (Read: Social Media’s Nice, But It’s Not IRL)

19. Embrace the mundane. It’s 80% of life. (Listen: This is Water, David Foster Wallace)

20. If you feel like getting dressed up to go to the store, go for it. Likewise, if you head out in workout gear, it’s no big deal. Life doesn’t hinge on what you’re wearing. (Granted, there are occasions where your dress is dictated by the occasion. Embrace it.)

21. Sometimes, you can buy happiness. Just don’t try it all the time.

22. Value those close to you. Don’t take them for granted, because some day they won’t be there.

Color Run Akron 2013

My sister-in-law, brother & I after Color Run Akron.

23. Make the extra effort. It usually pays off — even if no one’s watching.

24. Have a strong handshake, a genuine smile and a killer pair of earrings. (Gentlemen, I hear cuff links produce the same effect.)

25. Laugh a lot. It’s the best medicine, and you don’t need a prescription.

Yours truly, enjoying the moment

Yours truly, enjoying the moment.

26. Don’t waste too much time worrying. It really doesn’t change things.

27. Think through major decisions but don’t be afraid to act. Indecision can be paralyzing and leave you watching from the sidelines.

28. Be impulsive every once in awhile. Do something crazy at least once in your life.

29. Celebrate birthdays. Age brings wisdom and life experience. Appreciate them.

30. Think — every single day. It never goes out of style.

31. Listen to your body. It’s amazing what it can tell you.

32. “Never being satisfied” makes a great motivational poster but leaves you feeling empty inside. Always wanting more can leave you broke and alone. Enjoy your achievements and appreciate what you have. Remember, perfection is unattainable.  (Read: What’s your riddle?)

33. Be genuine in everything you do. It’s easier in the long run, and people will appreciate you for it. Eventually, you’ll even find people who like you for who you are.

“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”  –Lester Burnham, American Beauty

stick em up!

Bonnie & Clyde… back in the day.

I’ve never really grown up (vertically challenged here), but I have learned a lot. Like a good hat can make up for just about anything, even a really crappy day.

Share Your Lessons

What lesson(s) have you learned?

Do any of these lessons resonate with you? Do you disagree with any?

Maybe we can all learn to navigate this crazy thing we call life a little better.

Cheers,
Jaime

Life lesson: Connect with others!
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The Soundtrack of Life

Recently I began taking sign language classes to better communicate with the hearing impaired. During the first session, the instructor asked us to think about sounds that we associate with waking up in the morning. While members of the class chimed in with a variety of answers, I thought about how strange it would be to live in a silent world.

boy covering ears

In today’s society, we are flooded with noise – car radios, traffic sounds, birds chirping, construction equipment, lawn mowers, people talking, public address announcements and more. We often block out as much of this noise as we can in order to stay focused on the day’s goals. But maintaining our tunnel vision has its costs. Are we missing the soundtrack of life?

While I’m often visually inspired (despite being visually impaired — go figure), I make a point to not forget about my other senses. We have five (touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing) for a reason; they all contribute to our life experiences.

Our sense of hearing opens a whole new world to us. Helen Keller, the renowned American author, political activist and lecturer who was both blind and deaf, thought deafness to be even more of a setback than blindness due to the power of sound.

“…[Deafness] means the loss of the most vital stimulus–the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”

Have you ever stopped to think about not being able to have a verbal discussion with a colleague or client? About not being able to listen to that song that takes you back to a memorable moment in your life? Not being able to take in the sounds of nature to soothe your soul?

 

Our sense of hearing is a vital part of communication. It allows us to listen to others, hear their concerns and ideas, and react accordingly. Is it any surprise that the ability to listen has become a rare, sought after skill in today’s drowned out world?

The next time you’re tempted to stick your head in the sand, stop and listen. Listen to the world around you and what it has to say. Listen to a friend or colleague during lunch instead of burying yourself in your phone. Listen to the person on the other end of the phone — across town or the world — instead of checking email or watching TV. Listen to the birds chirping. Listen to your inner voice. Listen.

You just might be amazed at what you hear.

Your Turn — I’m Listening

What song or sound takes you back to ‘that’ moment?

What sounds make you smile?

What’s the most annoying sound in the world?

Who’s someone you love to talk –and listen — to when you’re stuck?

Do poor listeners turn you off?

When’s the last time you’ve just stopped and listened to what’s around you?

Photo courtesy of Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez via a Creative Commons License
Helen Keller quoted from Helen Keller in Scotland: a personal record written by herself, edited by James Kerr Love (London: Methuen & Co., 1933). 

Always listening,
Jaime

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