Thursday, February 28, 2013

Put Small Talk Last

For clients who hire professionals that work on an hourly basis, small talk can be a ‘killer skill’. Small talk can inadvertently kill the impression that you are trying to create: that is, that you are efficient and get things done quickly. Some small talk is necessary but it should never last more than a couple of minutes at the beginning of a conversation.

In addition to avoiding the impression of inefficiency, the more time you spend on small talk, the less time you have to understand the client’s needs. Small talk takes up valuable time and mental focus. It can get out of hand and eat up a disproportionate amount of time for the business meeting, especially when you have a lengthy period of small talk at the end of the conversation in addition to the beginning of the conversation.

What’s more, the longer you engage in small talk, the more awkward it becomes to gracefully refocus on the business at hand. Sports discussions can often do this, as can talk about recent political events, catastrophic weather and popular television shows or movies. Resist the temptation. There’s a time and place for the relationship building value of small talk and it is at the end of the meeting, after you have determined the next steps and concluded the business purpose of the meeting.

Save the small talk for the walk to the elevator.  That’s the best time to leave a client with the lasting impression of your warm and affable personality.

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