Conversation: Your Secret Superpower

When we're children, we all dream of possessing the awesome powers of superheroes. Unfortunately, at some point growing up, we stop believing this dream will ever come true. Well, it's time to believe again!

Whether you know it for not, you already possess incredible superpowers - powers to influence the actions of others, to see the future, and to forever change the fortunes of your business for the better. All these powers have one thing in common: you get them from having conversations.

At first glance, this "secret" can seem like quite a letdown. You've had plenty of conversations, and very few, if any, have made you feel like Wonder Woman or Superman. But as with any great power, you must learn to wield it properly.

Despite what you may think, it's not easy to have a conversation - at least not the kind that gives you superpowers. It takes a lot more time, and dedication than most people are willing or able to invest. Instead, they rely on shortcuts, such as online or emailed surveys and, more recently, social media. Or they try to avoid conversations altogether, like companies using endless layers of computerized attendants.

For those of you willing to learn how to have meaningful conversations with customers, employees, peers, anyone, the power is yours for the taking. Here's how.

To harness the power of influence, find a reason to genuinely care about the person you're speaking with.

The most important word in that sentence is genuinely. People can sense phoniness a mile away. If you're only pretending to care about what other people say, they're going to sense it and stop talking to you. So find some reason to like that person. Maybe they share your affinity for dogs, have kids the same age as yours, or also have a timeshare in the Bahamas. Whatever it might be, hold that thought in your head as you converse. It will help you be genuine, engaged, and, as a result, more trustworthy.

As you start building trust, you'll begin to get glimpses of the other person's hopes, desires, fears, passions, and more. It's this information that unlocks your first superpower. With these insights, you'll be able to tailor your offer or message to be genuinely more relevant, meaningful, and motivational to the other person, essentially giving you the powers of influence and persuasion. You can use these powers to generate more leads with your or to close more sales.

To unlock your ability to see the future, avoid scripting your conversations.

Great conversations naturally flow from one topic to the next. While it's certainly all right to have a list of talking points to get a conversation started or over a lull, never use a checklist of questions, or worse, a script. Doing so not only changes you into a telemarketer, it also keeps you from potentially talking about topics that could have a huge, positive impact on your business. For example, if you're asking a customer questions only about your menu, and competitors, how would you ever learn that they recently stopped coming to your because the bathrooms were always "gross." Simply put, you don't know what you don't know. But if you can just allow your conversations to flow naturally, after enough experience, you'll begin to see common themes. It's these themes that give you the ability to see the future: the eventual rise or decline of a business or industry, up-and-coming trends, unique business opportunities, and more.

To change your fortune for the better - while avoiding the worst - choose the people you want your customers to have conversations with wisely.

Superhero lore is filled with tales of good guys gone bad, and it's these villians who are most dangerous. It makes sense - they know the secrets of the other superheroes, who they're affiliated with, the locations of their hideaways, and even the source of their powers. Then they use this information against them.

Learn from the mistakes of the superheroes and be very selective when choosing the people who will have conversations with your customers. Whether it's your franchise sales people or the person who answers your telephone, any time someone speaks with a customer, they represent your entire organization. I can't tell you how many times I've seen once-loyal customers turn on companies because of just one interaction with a rude, careless, or poorly trained employee. So to keep your customers happy and your bottom line healthy, make sure anyone having conversations with your customers is using their power for good, and not evil.

Melinda Caughill is Partner, Strategic Marketing at Third Person, Inc., a marketing, advertising, and company based in Milwaukee. Contact her at or 414-221-9810 x302.

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