“How are you today?”

“Sorry to hear about the Packer’s loss last weekend, what was your highlight of the season?”

“How has your day been so far in the new location?”

“How are the kids?”

What do you think about those questions? Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, the dreaded small talk!”

Well, “small talk” is only small if you make it so.

You see, each of those questions can be a powerful STARTER to a fuller sales conversation…if you guide the conversation in that direction.

That’s why the initial questions in any conversation, especially in a prospective client conversation, need to be SMART!

Smart questions earn you the right to move forward in a productive sales conversation or networking conversation. And the goal of ANY conversation is to engage in an information exchange that achieves an outcome.

How to Stop the Small Talk

Now, here’s some straight talk…if you don’t like small talk, don’t talk small! Instead talk smart. Or rather, “ask smart.”

Here’s how to make Smart Talk in your sales conversations:

1. Get your mind right. Focus on engaging with a person or people. Make it about them, not you. Instead of worrying about what you should say, think about what you should learn and what they might want to talk about.

Following are starter questions to get your prospect talking and you listening and learning. I suggest you select a couple of “go tos” that are broad enough for the person to respond to. Then ask the powerful follow-up questions that show you seek to understand.

I call these Connection Questions. And their answer tells you a lot! If someone gives you a short, curt response, you know they don’t want to talk about it, and instead you can segue into agenda items.

Sample Smart Talk questions:

Networking events:

  • How long have you been involved with __________? (the organization, subject, etc.)
  • What have you found most useful so far?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • Who have you met that was interesting? (or helpful or funny)

Scheduled sales conversations:

  • How was your travel in? (if in office)
  • How is your day so far?
  • What was your highlight of the XXXX game? (or season or specific player)

Yes, I went “there” – chatting about the weather or sports. Surprise! LOTS of people want to talk about weather – or anything that is happening now! Sports, world news, the geography you are in, etc. are common topics for a reason. For example, even though I’ve moved to southern FL, I still love talking about the Green Bay Packers (GO Pack GO).

Tip: If you talk with people outside of your geographic area, look online for recent news. What is happening locally that could be a good connection question?

2. Ask follow-up questions that show you are listening and are interested!

    • That’s interesting, tell me more.
    • How did that ________?
    • What’s best (or most interesting) for you about that?
    • Oh, what happened after that?
    • Then what?

3. Do your homework. Prepare for the human connection. Who are you meeting with? What are their interests? Who do they know that you know? What is their business? Role? Personal situation?

You are not a talker if you Google someone to learn more about them! It’s research, and smartly prepares you to focus on what is important to them from the get-go.

Don’t make it creepy or stalkery by saying something such as, “I really liked the green shirt/dress you had on in your photo at the charity event.” Or, “I noticed you have a pretty daughter.”

Use the information you learn to identify a question they may want to answer!

“As I prepared for our conversation, I noticed you are involved in several volunteer organizations, what led to your involvement in ________?”


To make the most of our time together, I reviewed your background online. It seems we have a common connection, Bob Smith. I’ve known Bob for a long time. How do you connect with him?”

Stop the Small Talk. Make it Smart Talk.

And that’s it! There is nothing small about Smart Talk. It’s a powerful way to earn the right to an open conversation, information exchange about business or the agenda.


Financial Advisor sales training doesn’t have to focus on pushy tactics or high-pressure pitches. Genuine Sales teaches the fundamentals for sales success that allow you to be genuine, ethical, and successful!