Watercooler Starters

Spare a thought for Middle England. If the gender switcheroo in elected leader-unelected head of state wasn't perhaps traumatic enough, there's the late onset shock from realisation how much the twin towers of Putin invasion and China shaped lockdown closures eventually crash into their world.

One manifestation of such being articles in their preferred press with titles like, 'The 8 dinner party conversations you’ll definitely have this weekend'.

For the record, that suggested an octet of starters;

When does your fixed mortgage end?
Should we cancel the minibreak?
Have you got the heating on?
Have you switched to Aldi/Lidl yet?
Where did you buy your heated clothes airer?
What’s your monthly energy bill?
Where has Keir Starmer been hiding his wife Victoria?
Have you had your jab?

Yet like a Ukrainian battlefield bluff, amid the hands-in-the-air gaping-mouthed eye-rolls, a penetrating Sales point lurks.

Perhaps we do have a selling equivalent. A place where small talk can take hold. With potentially deep consequences about how we are judged. Where decisions are made in our absence.

I'm talking about the watercooler chat.

Where two or more prospects bump into each other informally, in a communal setting. Specifically where they then end up having a discussion of significant weight.

Whilst shared canteen facilities host the bulk of such encounters, so termed casual collisions can be a semi-permanent presence.

Not only do we know such 'meetings' will occur, we too ought be prepared for them.

We are not likely to be in attendance inside our prospect office when they crop up.

But those for whom our proposal is already seen as the winning side will be.

Let's forearm them.

After all, a solution seller at the top of their game will seek to both identify all the calendared meetings buyerside where their project might get discussed, and influence the way in which they are duly done so.

So why treat watercooler connections any different?

In similar fashion to the social climber attention grab, there will be hot trending topic du jour for your prospect.

Can you sculpt a question using such like as an anchor? One which your championing prospect personality can use as a prompt? So as to isolate the leanings towards you of those by whom they brush?

Post-lockdown I myself have borne witness to this kind of vital interaction.

In a head office with open-plan space for meetings requiring neither great privacy nor whiteboard. A walkway separated the area from an atrium. Colleagues regularly traipsed by, on the periphery.

One of them, spotted a workplace friend they'd not seen in-person for a fair while around 'our' table. Came over. Apologised for the intrusion. Shook hands warmly.

Then followed a brief yet inevitable 'in the office for anything special' line.

After an equally fleeting explanation, a golden morsel of intel was volunteered. Set to elevate the results and direction of what followed.

A random contact. Two people who'd hardly meet with any common frequency. Yet a blockbuster outcome for one on that day.

Even suggesting but a pair of possible 'openers' to your prospect could make a huge difference.

In my current zone, sample frameworks which could prove template-able include;

'you been affected any by...?'
'how's this [hybrid] thing going?
'decent productivity hacks hard to come by?'

A great way to turn a gossip stop into something much more supportive.

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