Using 'Small Talk' to Increase Sales

Older adults are “professional consumerologists.” They are more experienced at sizing up sales pitches … and sales pitchers. They have bought it all. They have in-depth experience, both good and bad. They know inherently when your sales pitch is not true or lacks realism.


In my training work, I've noticed ineffective retirement community sales associates fail to converse with unfamiliar people about situations other than retirement properties. So they don’t use “small talk” effectively. And because they don’t do it, they pass up sales opportunities.

Why so?

  • Relationships with most prospects are at what I call arms-length. Dealing with clients  on that basis means you are not building “emotional equity.”
  • With no emotional equity, prospects have little reason to stay engaged with you.
  • It means they have little reason to make referrals about other retirement community friends and acquaintances. So they  don’t.
  • It means there is no ability to talk to prospects about anything except transacting business. The result is fewer positive contacts and fewer chances to deepen relationships.

How to change it? Use “small talk” questions like these to begin building emotional equity and keep it going:

  • “What’s going on with____?” (Your health; your children; etc.)”
  • “Have you (done/read/seen/etc.) any _____ lately?” (Good for activities and interests, such as travel, golf, going to the movies, reading the latest books.)
  • “How is ______ now?” (This is good for bringing up a previously discussed topic) This one requires keeping good records of contacts.
  • "What’s happened/happening to _______?” (Fill in the blanks about almost anything)
  • “What is _____ doing now?” (Especially good for children, grandchildren, even pets)
  • “How is your _____?” (Also good for almost anything – How is your broken arm? How is your bridge game? How is your daughter? How is your volunteer work going?)
  • “How do you feel about that?” (A good follow-up question and one to keep the conversation going.)
  • “What’s your reaction to_____?” (Anything, but especially something the prospect has just told you: What’s your reaction to that?)
  • “What do you think about _____?” (Anything in the news of interest to the client. What do you think about the local team this year? What do you think about the new music director at the symphony?)

Just remember to show interest in what the client says and follow-up questions like those above and you’ll be connecting more deeply.

The connection sales strategy is important. Consider this quote, “Every great romance and each big business deal begins with small talk. The key to successful small talk is learning how to connect with others, not just communicate with them.” - Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci, author of The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything.