What have conversations got to do with it?

Better conversations lead to stronger relationships. And stronger relationships are one of the greatest potential levers in driving sales.

I was recently invited to strengthen the conversational wisdom with a sales team in a rapidly growing consultancy practice. The participants were somewhat sceptical –“I’ve been doing this role for over 20 years, I don’t need any more development”, “I’m an expert in xxx, there’s nothing I don’t know about it” – and yet up for the challenge of taking a few risks in a safe environment. A small number were even excited and willing to accept the invitation of sprinkling some magic into their pitch presentations.

We started off with each one of them standing up and doing a brief talk on their area of specialism or product, and it didn’t take long for the stream of acronyms, technical jargon (from where I was sitting) and ‘expert’ speak to take over. Don’t get me wrong – I see the value of models. And I understand the value of knowledge and experience. But it’s a shame when we don’t place as much value on an integral part of what engages another human being; connecting at a human level.

“When I fed back what I was experiencing to the group, some of them were quite taken aback.”

It’s all well and good to be a technical expert but I think business development and sales is also about having the conversational wisdom to engage hearts as well as minds. We often layer on assumptions about what our audience wants to hear – “I need to tell them the top 5 things they need to know about data analytics and artificial intelligence” – without reflecting on how we will grow trust, integrity, and empathy.

By Sara Hope
05.07.2018

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“We often overestimate the power of logic in our conversations and underestimate the power of human connection.”

When I fed back what I was experiencing to the group, some of them were quite taken aback. The habit of engaging with clients in a certain way was so strong that having the courage to take a risk and do things differently appeared to be uncomfortable. By creating an environment where the group could experiment, push the boundaries, and challenge assumptions about the prevailing culture of ‘this is the way we talk to clients’, new opportunities have emerged.

From my experience working in professional service environments, success is often built around a subtle blend of relationships and technical expertise. With the wealth of new insights coming out in the field of neuroscience, we would do well to place the same level of importance on developing behavioural capability as we do on refreshing technical knowledge.

We often overestimate the power of logic in our conversations and underestimate the power of human connection. My invitation is for us to begin to redress the balance. It takes time, it needs to be valued, and it takes skill. But, overwhelmingly, better conversations lead to stronger relationships. And stronger relationships are one of the greatest potential levers in driving sales.