Juicy Conversation (Issue 433)

In which we marvel at the connection created by a story. Wednesday night, I sat with a friend for dinner. Sitting outside, a pink-sunsetted, warm, summer evening gently accented by shifting light breeze. A few folks around at other tables, a quiet night. We ordered food (mine was the "turkey, black bean, and cilantro burger on focacia with a side of maple syrup drizzled roasted sweet potato wedges).

Dinner came, and just as we were sinking incisors into juicy delights, a fellow at the next table exclaimed with bright excitement, “Oh, let me tell you about this great book I’m reading.”

Who would NOT listen? I wanted to!

His friend leaned forward and they were off and running about the book for about 20 minutes. Their waitress arrived, interrupting the discussion, “Would you like anything else?” [A sense of timing is a real asset in that business!] After a moment’s pause, “Sure, bring us some dessert,” and they burrowed in for another 30 minutes. [I wish I could have heard the title of the book!]

The book discussion was a gift brought to dinner, one friend for another, one friend energizing another, drawing them together, deepening relationship. Some of the connection, I’m guessing, was the book’s content. Most, I’m guessing, was the book-teller’s enthusiasm. Genuine, pulsing, and completely engaging, like the excitement of gathering ‘round to hear stories by flickering candle light from a traveler recently returned from strange lands far away.

Wouldn’t it be cool to create that kind of connection and relationship with clients and prospects, as well as friends? What can we bring to sales calls or business conversations that can have a similar electrifying effect? From what strange lands can we bring stories?

Books are good (as in, “Let me tell you about this great book I’m reading!”). Articles, stories about other businesses’ successes and mistakes, and stories about personal experiences are also terrific – someone we’ve met, a place we’ve been, a speaker we enjoyed, something we’ve learned.

The keys are (1) what do our customers and prospects find interesting, and (2) are they excited by learning, and (3) are we excited, ourselves, about what we’ve read or experienced? [Starting with, are we reading anything or experiencing anything ourselves! Got to get out more, if the answer to that question is, “no.”]

A monotone delivery of, “I found an article I thought you might like” shows some preparation and commitment to help, but it isn’t electrifying or engaging. Our clients and prospects could get articles from competent librarians. Our clients, prospects, and friends feel our energy only from us.

In the press of time, activities, sales goals, and juggling personal and business life, it’s easy to cut back on new input. At our peril, we cut back. If we’re not bringing new food for thought, the table looks pretty bare and the conversation feels sparse; we aren’t adding much or giving reasons for an invitation to another conversation.

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