The Chit-Chat Strategy

I’m a high introvert. 

That’s what the I in ISFJ stands for.  The rest are S for sensing, F for feeling and J for judging. I won’t get into how that all plays out in my life right now, I’ll save that for another day.  Today I want to talk about how I network and manage to be successful in sales as an introvert.

Bottom line is introverts don’t like large groups of people, we don’t like meeting new people and we don’t like small talk or talking about ourselves.  That can make life difficult for those of us who have also chosen a career in sales that requires us to do all those things on a regular basis.

I’ve recently developed what, for lack of a better term, I am calling my Chit-Chat Strategy to help me get past that awkward “getting to know you” phase of a new client relationship.  Whether I just met you at a large networking event, surrounded by crowds of people or we are sitting down to discuss a business opportunity over coffee, the first few minutes of ice-breaking are critical to the success of our working relationship. 

But as I’ve already said, I don’t like small talk or talking about myself, so the key is to make you do all the work.  Most people love talking about themselves so with a few well-placed questions I can send you off to the races.  All I do is sit back and listen.  When you come up for air I ask another question and before long, without hardly any effort on my part, I have you convinced that I’m great company and the kind of person you want to do business with.  All without hardly saying a word.

The specific questions vary depending on the situation and it’s important to make sure they are open ended so that people won’t be able to give one-word answers, but they generally fall into four categories. 

1 – Family & Friends

Kids, neighbours, co-workers, anyone that you spend time with on a regular basis.  I once asked a co-worker “how did your daughter enjoy volunteering at the food bank last weekend?” twenty minutes later I knew more about that girl, her friends, school, hockey team and the inner workings of a food bank than I ever thought possible. 

2 – Occupation

Not “how’s work?” but “tell me about the latest project you’re working on.”

3 –Recreation

“I heard you’re planning on running a triathlon next spring.  That must take up a lot of your time, how do you fit that in to your busy schedule?”  If someone where to ask me that, even though I usually don’t like talking about myself, I have to admit I’d have a lot to say.  Go ahead, try me… 

4 – Meaning

This one is a bit tricky and not for beginners.  Questions about where people find their deepest sense of purpose in life can lead to great intimacy, but you must build a foundation first.  Unless you’re a priest or a shrink you can’t go directly to meaning, it’s too personal and you’ll be thought of as pushy. 

These are not cocktail party questions but once I’ve established a relationship with someone and I’m starting to really get to know them I can probe a bit.  Some of my favorite questions to ask and start to get at the true meaning in someone’s life are, “what do you know to be true?”, “what is your most fulfilling fantasy?” and “what are you most afraid of?” 

If the person trusts you, they will tell you everything and come away thinking you are their greatest confidant. But ask those questions before you’ve gained permission and the walls that go up could be impenetrable. Nothing kills relationships faster than an ill-timed meaning question. 

So, there you have it.My introverted strategy for having great conversations.  Try it sometime and let me know how it goes. 

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