Your Lame Small Talk Could Be Costing You the Sale

You don't have to be a brilliant conversationalist, just mind your manners, remember names and listen.

learn more about Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jacqueline Whitmore

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Have you ever made a stellar presentation to a client and still walked away without the sale? You might have sabotaged yourself without even knowing it.

The words we choose can have a powerful impact on our clients' impression of us. That impression can be just as important – if not more so – than your product or service itself. Here are five ways to "say it right" so that you leave your client with a positive impression.

1. Say the names correctly.

Be sure to look up the name of the company and each person with whom you will be meeting. Write down the names and find out the titles if you can. You don't want to embarrass yourself by mispronouncing or misspelling a client's name. Review the names just before you step into the meeting and if you have doubts about pronunciation, ask them how they pronounce it.

Another trick to remembering names is to hand out your business card and ask for theirs at the beginning of the meeting. Lay their cards out on the table in front of you for a quick reference.

Related: How to Get Better at Remembering Names

2. Apologize if you're late.

First of all, don't be late. But if something happens and you are a few minutes behind, make it your first priority to apologize. Do not give a long drawn-out explanation and don't blame your tardiness on the weather or the traffic. The client isn't interested in a lame excuse. Simply and sincerely offer apologies for being late and move directly into why you're there.

3. Never say "Tell me about your company."

When you show up for a presentation, the client assumes that you already know what they do and how you can help. If you begin by asking "Tell me about your company." you automatically lose credibility and trust. Research your appointment in advance and customize your presentation to their company, using the name of the company and their products (if applicable) throughout your conversation. Do not overuse names, however.

If for some reason the company does not have a website, or is a startup, do your best when making conversation. For example, you might say, "I understand (or researched) that you are in the moving business. Specifically, what do you wish to accomplish and how can I help?"

Related: 6 Ways Introverts Can Avoid Feeling Shy at Conferences

4. Avoid using "but."

Using the word "but" negates everything that comes before it; use the word "and" in its place. Instead of saying "We can modify our service to meet your needs, but need more time to do that, say "We can modify our service to meet your needs, and it will only take an extra week to put everything in place." See how this turned a potential negative into a positive benefit?

Related: 5 Ways Bickering Politicians or Anybody Else Can Get a Conversation Back On Track

5. Give a solid price.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of giving a range when quoting pricing, as in "Our service should run between $1,500 and $2,000." The problem with this is that the client always hears the low end. You are better served giving a solid price and coming in under budget if possible. Other areas where a range should not be given include time and materials.

Your meeting should be a positive experience throughout and end with a commitment to a future action. Remembering these simple tips will help ensure that you accomplish your goals.

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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