A Salesman’s Guide to Everyday Conversation With Strangers

One of the most valuable traits a salesperson can possess is the ability to easily strike up conversations with anyone who crosses their path. Whether you’re on a plane or in line at the grocery store, having a method for starting a conversation with random strangers is an asset that sets the best apart from the mediocre. This ability correlates into more sales as every new person you talk to becomes a new prospect for you to pitch your services to.

Since sales is something that all of us do every single day (you do not have to always be bartering or selling something for money to be selling something), the five steps below have proven to help out a lot of people with their sales career and confidence to network when around people they don’t know.

Here are my 5 proven steps to starting a conversation with anyone:

1. Paralleling

This step is super effective and easy. The trick is identifying what the other person cares about. Things like tattoos and jewelry are great examples of personal attributes or items that they cherish and or that mean something to them.

Ideally, you want to identify something they have that you have yourself. This becomes an easy way to strike up a conversation and build rapport by being “like” them. For example, on a recent trip, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me had Chinese characters in the tattoo on his arm. From here, we can move into…

2. 20 Questions

Here we start asking them questions about the item or attribute that we identified in the paralleling step. Be sure to make eye contact, smile and approach the questions with a relaxed, yet interested energy. If they feel like you are forcing the conversation, it will make them uncomfortable and clam up.

Remember the tattooed guy on the plane? After I asked him what the Chinese characters meant, the door was open to ask further questions, like “That’s really cool, what made you get the tattoo?”

To make it easy, create questions fusing who, what, when, where and how, which allows the person you’re talking to to tell a story about themselves. This creates a bond and builds trust with them quickly because they feel admired and liked. You’d also be amazed at how much you can find out about someone by doing this.

However there is a warning here! There is a way to screw this up! The item or attribute you are paralleling needs to be something you genuinely like and are interested in. This is key. So if you know nothing about tattoos, don’t want a tattoo, or don’t like tattoos, then don’t compliment them on their tattoo, because it will be disingenuous and you won’t be contribute back to the conversation. In other words, you will lose the bond with the person you are communicating with really quickly.

“To be interesting, be interested.” – Dale Carnegie

3. You’re My Hero

If you have asked enough questions you should have a general idea from the person you are talking to and you now can use that information to connect with them on other levels of common interest.

Find life circumstances that match or stories that you share. Tell them how something in their story moved you emotionally (make sure to be genuine!) or help the person emotionally see and feel how their story connected with you. This will help to initiate the first “bonding moment” that you two share.

We call this step of this process, “you’re my hero” because you have shown excitement around something they do that you wish to do or do yourself. This “likeness” helps strengthen the bond and open up the other person to share more about their life with you.

4. Common Denominators

By now you’ve asked some questions, gotten some information from them, and heightened the bond between the two of you. You can keep the conversation going by mentioning other things that you like and notice that you two might have in common, based either on physical things you see or answers to your questions.

Each “common denominator” you can find serves to tighten the bond between you and them. The stronger the bond you can develop with them, the more powerful the last step will be!

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

5. Leave Behind

Here is where you make this conversation stick in their memory. All four others steps lead to this, because it’s where you can leverage the conversation and connection into some sort of transaction.

This transaction doesn’t always mean a sale, it can occur in a range of ways. You may have a person to introduce them to that can solve their challenge, or you may be able to send them a referral, or it could be as simple as a business card exchange or friending them on social media.

A popular leave behind in 2019 is a mobile app, mainly because someone always has their phone with them. A leave behind is a way for them to have your contact information (and you get theirs) so you can connect with them after the conversation is over. Other great leave behinds are a copy of a book you wrote, your website link, or a sales funnel link.

Sometimes too, when things go really well with the conversation (believe me, you will know) you may be able to immediately schedule a time to talk with them later. The bond needs to be strong enough before you propose this because if it’s not it can ruin this entire opportunity.

If you’re thinking this sounds simple, you’re right! And it still takes practice to perfect. For some seasoned sales people, they can probably think back to a time or two when they did this unconsciously and it worked out great. The thing is, when you practice these steps and allow it to become an unconscious process you can use too, it can be a lethal weapon for you in your professional career and your life as a whole.

Start by practicing the steps consistently. Practice at the gym, at restaurants, anywhere you are where there is a stranger nearby. Over a short period of time you’ll accrue a lot more contacts, have the opportunity to make more sales and you’ll become such a natural that people will think you were born charismatic!

What part of this salesman’s guide resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts with us below!

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