Small Talk Common Ground

Establishing rapport with a prospect is of course essential.  Making someone feel comfortable with you is a vital pre-requisite towards getting an order, especially if you’re not the cheapest player in town.

But trying to work out how to initiate such front talk can be tricky the first time in someone’s company.  Fewer desks these days have the kids pics and drawings adorning them.  I once had the gift of spying a Man Utd calendar on the wall and wailed my disapproval at how genetics had landed me with a less silverwared club to many smiles all round.  And if you meet rather in a conference room, then there’s precious little to go on.

So, what else can you do to make the start of your meeting different?  A highly engaging chap at drinks distributor Matthew Clark once told me to knock over your coffee.  I was out dining with pals in Cape Town, when one told me about her day, being trained in the joys of teamwork.  People, she was told are more likely to work well together when they share some common ground.  You should apparently home in on these and use them to your advantage.  She explained that the big three areas that help people bond are; humour, sport, music.

Now, I was always taught to avoid making jokes until the prospect has, so as to gauge their comedy leanings.  As for sport, I’ve not met many women in business that are interested in this, and it’s often amazed me how many fellas make statements like “I’m not into football at all” as the whole country goes beserk over a metatarsel.

So that leaves music.  I personally can (and do) talk about music for hours.  Being essentially a pop-tart, this has proved reliably fertile ground for establishing rapport on many occasions.  Yet how could you bring it into the frame early? 

My instant thoughts were simple.  Drop my ipod on the table as I prepare my kit and see if there’s a bite.  If not, feign searching for a pen, so you have to fish your headphones out of your jacket pocket.  If the nibble proves elusive still, make sure a CD (ask someone older if in the dark) falls from your day book.  And so on!  Just a thought 😉

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