How to Talk to People

Red Lobster. Ground Round. Houlihan’s. Bennigan’s. Cheesecake Factory. Legal Seafoods. I’ve worked for them all at one time or another. But that was a lifetime ago.

Although I would never work in the hospitality industry again, I’m reminded of many of my experiences whenever I dine out. All those flashbacks of my open to close shifts, friendships, customer (actually guest) service moments, and helping the shorthanded bartenders and cooks get out of “the weeds”.

Those were the days!

While recently chatting with a bartender in a Cheesecake Factory, I shared that I had worked for the company and we began sharing war stories.  We both agreed that a big part of the success of working in the hospitality industry comes down to how you talk to people. Simple, right?

Well, it’s the same thing if you’re a financial advisor, broker, agent, rep, wholesaler, service provider, business owner, or any kind of sales producer. You need to know how to talk to people to be successful otherwise you will fail. Simple as that! That’s where networking, referral marketing, and the ability to connect with people come into play.

Here are some quick reminders the next time you find yourself speaking with prospects, clients, centers of influence, or Sweet Lou seated at the corner of the bar.

Be Nice
Ever meet someone and comment afterward what a nice person that was? What did they do to make you feel that way? That’s what I mean by being nice. It could be someone that’s very complimentary. Does fun things. Is great with their children. Helps others. To me, nice is someone that seems to be having fun and does the things they want to simply because they’re fun. And that includes their work. It’s also someone that is interested in learning about what fun is for others. Of course there are other important qualities but when meeting someone for the first time, that’s my measure – the fun factor. Whatever nice means to you – be that!

Be Positive
Never vent and complain about your work, finances, previous employers, bad clients, bad luck, the economy, politics, the system, etc. The exception is maybe your sports team. Only negative people want to hear this stuff so why go there? Positive talk typically attracts positive people. What type of people do you want to be around? Encourage and compliment those you meet for their accomplishments and initiatives while sharing only good things as appropriate. Strike a balance between being positive and boasting – you don’t want to end up back in the negative column.

Be Focused
Be very specific when talking about your initiatives and objectives. Remember, if you’re in business, it’s evident that you’re probably looking for more business. But what type of business? What industry, profession, market segment, niche, demographic, geography, etc. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for others to help you. And it might determine if you’re speaking to the right people to begin with!

Be Reliable
How many times have people made promises to you and didn’t come through? Not sending you that info, returning your call or email, connecting you to that potential prospect. It happens. But don’t be that guy! (Or gal.) Say what you mean and mean what you say. Follow through quickly on the promises you make. People always remember if they can rely on you or if they can’t. Which is it going to be?

Be Interested
Try to be naturally interested in the people you meet. It’s difficult sometimes because we all have different interests but put the effort in. The best way to make your conversations more interesting is to ask great questions. Ask about work, play, family, kids, hobbies, goals, dreams. Again, it’s not always easy but if you’re in the right place, you’ll want to get good at asking great questions. The payoff – you’ll have more fun, gain more confidence, have more meaningful conversations, and you may get the same questions asked right back at you!

Be Helpful
If you like the people you meet, find out what they ultimately want (more business, land a job, information) and help them get it. What information do you have or people you know that can help? Remember, it goes both ways!

Go the Distance
Sometimes boxers go the distance – a full 3 rounds, 10 rounds, or whatever. Sometimes they don’t.  It’s the same thing with relationships. Some go the distance and some only last a few rounds. What can you do to develop more meaningful relationships with those most important to you? (See above.) Often it starts with determining how to stay in touch and taking the initiative to do so.

Of course these are all obvious. Or are they? Can you think of a time recently when you didn’t practice some of these approaches? Exactly!

The key is to remind yourself so the next time you’re in a meaningful conversation, you might just say the right thing to make a better connection. Who’s next on your list?

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