Conversations are part of everyday life. Those conversations vary by type and priority. There are personal conversions and there are business conversations. I’ve found that both types lead to success in life and in business.
The fact is, we all engage in business conversations both in and away from the office. And, whether we like it or not, our success or failure often depends on these conversations. From setting up and closing deals, building or understanding expectations, to career advancement and more, our success depends on our ability to hold solid business conversations.
Interestingly, sometimes the best business conversations seem to feel more personal. For some these conversations flow naturally. But what about those of us for whom it isn’t a natural thing? What if I'm an introvert in a sales world? Am I doomed to fail? The answer is no! Success can be made with a little focus and a lot of practice and consistency. This consistency over time becomes experience, which leads to tenure in roles and success in careers.
Here are some helpful tips to holding successful business conversations:
The single biggest factor of success in any endeavor is preparation. Preparation isn’t always perfect, but it is essential. The more prepared you are, the greater the chance of success, regardless of whether everything goes according to plan.
Learn as much as you can about a meeting or event beforehand. What’s the purpose of the meeting? Is there an agenda? What’s your role in the outcome? Who is attending? What are their goals and what’s their role in the outcome of the meeting?
The more you know and prepare, the better your outcomes will be.
I say newspaper questions because they used to drive the fact finding that went into journalism. They are the core to learning the facts of a situation. People you speak with want to be understood, they want to be heard. These questions help to achieve it.
What are the newspaper questions?
These can be used in any social situation, not just business.
- What’s your favorite activity outside of work?
- Who got you interested in it?
- When did you know you loved doing it?
- Who owns the decision on this project?
- What is their overriding goal for the year?
- How does this project help accomplish that goal?
- When does this project need to be completed?
- Where does your team fit in this process?
- Why is this project important?
You can see how these questions can guide discovery and understanding. What’s more, these questions can be used to dig deeper if necessary. A good rule of thumb is to ask questions until you feel you understand, and then ask another question. When we understand each other, good things happen.
It’s not an interrogation
The pitfall we can sometimes fall into is asking question after question as if we are merely digging for information. Nobody wants to be interrogated. However, when our questions come from a place of curiosity and our intention is to understand the other person, it becomes a conversation. The other person feels you are trying to know them, to know what they need and how you can help.
As I look back on my career so far, I can pinpoint people who did this. They asked the newspaper questions often. Yet, I can see how they made me feel important and understood. I can see how they did this for others. To some of them it came naturally. Others developed this ability through practice and consistency. If they can do it, so can we.
Here at LiveView Technologies we have a colleague, Rick Cromar, who is an extremely good example of someone who uses conversations to understand those with whom he interacts and then uses that understanding to help them to succeed in their goals.
One of Rick’s favorite sayings is “There is fortune in the follow up.”
In most cases, one conversation doesn’t drive success. Rather success is the culmination of multiple conversations and the action taken based on those conversations. In business, as in all of our relationships, we must continually follow up.
If I ask my spouse what her plans are for the day are in the morning without following up on how things went in the evening, I miss out on valuable opportunities to understand her better and have her understand me better. It’s the same in business. If I fail to follow up with my customers, colleagues, and superiors on the conversations we’ve had, then I have missed opportunities to further the business relationships and personal relationships that not only make us successful in our careers but can serve to enrich our lives.
All conversations will lead us somewhere. In life and in business, the better we prepare, the questions we ask, the intent behind them, and the follow up we apply will determine whether those conversations lead to success. Let’s all succeed!