3 Ways To Make Small Talk Pay Big Dividends

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Talking Some call it “small talk.” Others refer to it as the “warm up.” You know; it’s that idle, incidental banter between you and the prospect as you get things into place before the sales interaction. This warm up talk is more important than many realise and can steer the sales process in a positive or negative direction. In addition, this time for many sales people and prospective customers, is a waste of time. So, read on as I share a few tips on making sure this SMALL talk pays BIG dividends.

Part of the Sales Interaction
First, you need to pay as much attention to the structure and planning of the warm up as you do to the rest of the sales interaction. The warm up IS part of the sales interaction and an integral part of the entire sales process. Do not take for granted this period, and keep in mind the following three ideas.

#1 – Prevent the Conversation From Going Off Target.
You want to make sure the direction of the talk does not veer too far off on a tangent such as becoming too personal for the product or service at issue. It is fine to touch briefly on topics like the family and children and sports, etc., especially if the product warrants such information. However, be careful not to let this become liken to two ol’ buddy’s having a pint at the local pub. This is business.

Far too often sales people fall into the trap of trying to become best friends with the prospect first. While it is important to develop a good rapport with the prospect, today’s modern and educated buyer is not going to buy from you just because you are a nice and likable person.

You also want to direct the conversation so it does not delve into sensitive areas such as politics or religion. Even if you may happen to agree with the buyer’s views on those kinds of topics, they are always dangerous during a sales call.

#2 – Gather More Information
Use this time to get more information that will help close the sale. Ask questions that are of a warm up nature, yet have a business foundation. As an example, you may make a comment on how nice the prospect’s office looks when you walk in. Take that comment to another level and get some information that may aid in the sales process.

As an example, let’s say this sales person sells computer hardware and services. Instead of:

Sales Person
“Wow, Sarah! This is a great office! Beautiful, and you have such a lovely view of the water.”

“Thank you. I like it.”


Sales Person
“Wow, Sarah! This is a great office! Beautiful, and you have such a lovely view of the water. Do you own the whole floor?”

“Yes. Our office goes all the way around the building and we have two other floors as well.”

Sales Person
“That’s great. So, about how many employees in this building?”

“Oh, a little over 300 at this location.”

Sales Person
“So, that’s at least 300 PCs…How many servers operating here?”

You get the idea. Use the warm up to get information.

#3 – Position the Buyer as a Client
Use the warm up to help paint the picture of the prospect as a customer. In other words, make comments that show the prospect that many of your clients are his or her peers and share many of the same problems and issues; issues that you have solved for them.

“Yeah well, we used to be over on Coventry Lane and I had over 500,000 square feet. But with the economy downturn, I had to relocate to this smaller facility.”

Sales Person
“Oh, I understand that, Steve. In fact, I was able to assist several of my clients, right after they made that type of transition…”

Plan the warm up. It is part of the sales presentation.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 1 February, 2012

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