Smart Talk for Fast Times: 5 Rules
Who has the time now for long conversations? I hope you make time for them with your family and friends–but in the workplace, we tend to avoid people with the reputation for being long-winded.
So when you get the ear of a senior executive, how do you make the most of the moment? Use these tips to be more effective when talking with a busy executive.
1. Think in 30-Second Increments
Half a minute is forever in a boring conversation. Studies indicate that on the phone, the listener is considering whether to exit or stick around every seven to 11 seconds. In face-to-face meetings, you get a little more grace–say, all the way to 30 seconds. If you are not constantly generating someone's interest, you are losing him.
Executives seem to have their own form of attention disorders. Executives are constantly trying to come to a decision about any interaction: “Do I delegate this, avoid this, deny this or run away from this?” You are fighting that internal dialogue in small battles. Keep it interesting.
2. Watch for Signs of Boredom
We know the signs, right? Checking the watch, looking over your shoulder, fidgeting, glassy eyes. On the phone, it’s the prolonged pause, the “email launch” sound in the background, the vague “uh-huh, uh-huh ...” That's your "uh-oh" moment.
Really effective sales people respond to those moments. They interrupt the conversation with an honest interjection. It might be, “The bottom line is ...” or “The thing we need to decide right now is ...” The pattern interruption brings the conversation back to point and gets engagement.
3. Ask Permission for Stories
Stories are very important in conversations, to set points and ideas in context. Without context, it is hard for your listener to integrate your issues into all of their circumstances. However, when a person launches into a story, the instant reaction is resistance: No one wants to be trapped for who-knows-how-long in a pointless story.
If you need to tell a story, get the permission for extended attention. Just ask, “Can I tell a quick story to illustrate what I mean?” This shows respect to the listener and it prepares them for a sustained attention period.
4. Know What Your Point Is
Do you have a point? This is especially critical when talking with executives, but the truth is that it should be a general rule for all business conversations. You are asking for action, input, a decision, or support. To honor someone's time and get to the next step, you need to know exactly what you want.
A compliment I hear from executives and clients about their best suppliers is: “I really appreciate that they don’t waste my time. Whenever they need something, they come to me–and we take care of it and move on.”
5. What's in It for Someone Else?
Sales people have joked for a long time that everyone has the same radio station playing in their head: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). By no means do I believe that every interaction has to be a selling conversation, or that there has to be something for your listener in every conversation. However, if you want to hold their attention, it’s good to keep it in mind. What is in it for the listener to be having this conversation with you?
Get to the point and everyone will benefit. And let me know how it goes. If you find these tips helpful, post your experience in comments section.