Business Conversations: nature or nurture?

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Business conversations: nature or nurture?

I don’t know how you feel about having in-person conversations but, just from the very fact I have to use the phrase “in-person” in front of the word conversation, I know too many of our business conversations happen digitally now.

Our fast paced digital world is making it easier and easier to fire off mass communications, set-and-forget social media updates and reduce hour long meetings to a three-word text. Nothing wrong with saving time, being more efficient and putting a stop to time-sucking meetings, but it concerns me that we are losing our skill of conversing in real time; whether in a face to face meeting, speaking on the phone or using Skype on video.

Having two teenagers in the house just demonstrates this is only going to get worse when they tell me they’ve been chatting with their friends … when they mean, they’ve been sending selfies, plastered with emojis, to each other.

Am I right?!

Losing your skill of business conversation

Losing your skill of conversing in real time means that you are missing out on valuable feedback and potential sales for your business. Asking your customers to fill in a survey or ask for comments on a Facebook post or setting up a robust online campaign that drives traffic to a sales page … all good. But nothing beats having a 20-minute conversation with someone where you can pick up nuances, body language, specific phrases, raised eyebrows and not forgetting the silences that often tell a bigger story. You can dive into a different line of questioning based on one answer and ask the other person to expand on thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Feedback like this can give you all sorts of buying (and non-buying!) signals that often lead you to make a sale, even if that wasn’t the original objective of the conversation.

And, now that I’ve brought up that phrase “making a sale”, this is where I feel the real reason why so many people are shying away from in-person interactions; you’ve started to become fearful of selling.

Fearful of selling?

how to create business conversationsIf you were to tell me what you thought of when you read the word “selling”, what would you say?

Second car salesman? Powerpoint presentations? Show pony pitch fest?

I’ve been mentoring small business owners for 12 years and the fear of selling and coming across as salesy comes up time and time and time again. I see it because it was the same for me, too. Going back to when I first started in 2004, I embraced all things digital because, yes online marketing was essential to building a business, but I’ll be the first to admit that I felt working behind a screen also meant that I didn’t have to speak to someone to make a sale.

It took almost six years to kick that habit and although I still do a lot of selling by clicks, selling by conversation has become far more lucrative, profitable and, dare I admit it, fun!

Yes, having conversations with human beings are fun … even for an introvert like myself who rather stick a fork in her eye than try and make small talk at a party.

Let’s be clear here that when I refer to conversations in business, I’m NOT referring to sales pitches, overcoming objections or squeezing a yes out of your customers. I’m talking about conversations that give value; that are 10% questioning, 80% listening and just 10% talking about you and what you do.

So, coming back to my original question.

Business conversations: are they nature or are they nurture?

Are you born with the genetic makeup that means you enjoy speaking with people, and conversational flow is natural? Or do you have to work at conversations; develop the skill and art of being able to have a two-way interaction?

There’s no doubt some people appear to born with the ease of conversation. You probably can think of a friend or perhaps feel it in yourself.

But on the whole, most people have to work at conversational skills, and this is a good thing, believe me. As a skill, having a conversation is something that can be studied, practised and tried out. And before we had businesses that could be run 100% digitally, conversation in business was critical. All we had was a phone, royal mail and a good pair of leather shoes so arranging face to face meetings was the only way to make sales.

Fortunately, we don’t have to be door-to-door salesmen anymore (although there are some businesses that still rely on this marketing strategy – Riverford Organics and the Mormon church being just two that spring to mind!). But with digital marketing comes the ability to hide behind your screens and pretend to yourself that creating websites, marketing funnels and setting up sales pages is the only way to build a business.

And the more you spend hiding behind your screens, the fewer opportunities you get to have in-person conversations, the less likely you are to put yourself out there to have them. The vicious circle spirals out of control and before you know, you’re stuck at home, feeling lonely and frustrated because the only conversations you are having is with your Facebook feed and email list.

OK … time to hear from you.

I’d love to know your thoughts on picking up the phone or arranging a coffee meet with potential customers. Do you use your digital marketing as an excuse to avoid in-person interactions at all times? Or do you really, truly feel that not speaking or meeting people works better for you and your business?

Leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts on the matter.

And if this article has touched a nerve and made you realise that you are missing out on conversations in your business, but you just don’t know how to get yourself out of the digital rut, then check out my 10 Day Conversation Challenge starting on Monday 5th September. I promise you it’s going to be a lot of fun, a fabulous way to practice the art and skill of creating conversations and a perfect post-holiday kick into the Autumn.

Go to www.karenskidmore.com/10days for more info and to sign up.  It’s FREE!

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