As a sales manager, it is your job to make sure all your salespeople know how to make a good first impression when beginning a conversation with a customer.
If they can immediately build rapport with the customer, they will be much more likely to uncover that customer’s pain points and close the sale at the end of the interaction.
However, far too many salespeople start conversations by asking about the weather or a different topic that does not effectively help them build rapport.
Is that problem common among your salespeople?
If so, you are probably concerned – and rightfully so. After all, bad conversation-starting habits often lead to poor sales results.
Fortunately, by the time you finish reading this post, you will have learned several conversation starters you can incorporate into your sales training. That way, you can teach your team how to build rapport with customers from the moment they begin talking to them.
6 Conversation Starters You Should Teach Your Salespeople to Use with Customers
1. A question about something personal based on the customer’s LinkedIn profile
You can learn a lot about someone just by looking at his or her LinkedIn profile. For example, a customer may have his connections, his hobbies and the causes he is passionate about listed on his profile.
Teach your salespeople to use that knowledge to their advantage.
While talking to a customer, a salesperson could easily mention something he saw on the customer’s LinkedIn profile by asking one of these questions:
- How do you know _______? Fill in the blank with the name of a mutual connection.
- How did you get involved with ________? Fill in the blank with an organization the customer has volunteered at.
- When did ________ become a passion of yours? Fill in the blank with one of the customer’s hobbies.
When the customer answers one of these questions, it is important that your salesperson listens and continues the conversation by showing a genuine interest in what the customer is talking about. Then, the salesperson can transition to beginning the next steps in the sales process, and your customer will likely be much more receptive to the sales pitch.
2. A question about a popular piece of content within the customer’s industry
For example, a salesperson could ask a customer whether he has read a specific blog post that is a popular topic of conversation in his industry.
From there, the salesperson could find out more about the customer by asking what he thought about specific parts of the post.
However, the salesperson does not have to limit himself to blog posts. He could also ask about a whitepaper, press release, article or other piece of content as long as it is relevant.
Tip: Looking at a customer’s Twitter feed (or other social media feeds) is a great way for your salespeople to find out what content the customer has read. In your sales training sessions, teach your salespeople to look at the blog posts a customer has shared with his following and consider mentioning one of those, especially if the post topic would allow for an easy transition into a sales pitch.
3. A question about a recent event
Almost everyone watches popular televised events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars. If a major event has occurred recently, tell your salespeople to consider asking their customers what they thought about the event.
If something specific and notable happened at the event, they can ask the customer what he thought about it. For example, instead of asking a general question about the Super Bowl, the salesperson could ask how the customer feels about the specific team who won the Super Bowl.
Just make sure you tell your sales team to avoid asking about events involving religion and politics. Otherwise, they could end up in a heated discussion with a customer, which certainly will not lead to a sale.
4. A comment about something the customer recently did
For example, if your salesperson looks at the customer’s social media accounts and learns that he recently attended a conference, he can ask your customer what his favorite part of the trip was.
However, you should tell your salespeople to avoid being too intrusive with this approach. It is best for them to ask mostly about the customer’s professional life and avoid touchy subjects centered on the customer’s personal life.
5. A question about the customer’s job role
For example, your salespeople could ask customers to explain the tasks they typically handle on a daily basis.
By asking this question, a salesperson can easily get a customer to open up about what he likes and dislikes about his job.
When that happens, the salesperson should actively listen to the customer and focus on uncovering the customer’s pain points.
Then, the salesperson can use that information to recommend a product or service that will help the customer overcome the challenges he is facing at work.
Using this strategy can often make it much easier for the salesperson to close the sale.
6. A question about a recent announcement from the customer’s company
If the customer’s company recently launched a new product, announced rapid business growth or shared other information publicly, a salesperson can use that information to start a conversation that is conducive to closing a sale.
Bringing up the company announcement will show that the salesperson has performed background research on the company, making him seem more credible in the customer’s eyes.
On top of that, this conversation starter allows the salesperson to uncover the customer’s thoughts on the company and gain valuable insights that may allow him to sell more effectively.
For example, if the business announced rapid growth, the customer may begin to talk about how the business does not have the resources necessary to support that growth. Then, the salesperson may be able to sell the customer something that will help him overcome that challenge and grow the company.
As you can gather from reading this post, a good conversation starter is all about building rapport and getting a customer to open up. By using the conversation starters here, your sales team should be able to do that much more effectively.
For the best results, make sure your salespeople understand the purpose of each of these conversation starters and how they can transition the conversation from the initial topic to their pitches.
To accomplish this, you may need to offer several sales training sessions or provide sales coaching in the form of role-playing where you act as the customer.
Remember to be patient with your team while they learn – especially if they are trying out new conversation starters.
You can also ask your top salespeople which conversation starters they use successfully with customers. They may be able to offer you new insights and alternative conversation starters that you can teach your team to improve their overall sales results.