Small Talk With Clients: 5 Fail-Safe Topics
Socializing with clients can be tricky business. On the one hand, business relationships thrive on building rapport. On the other, we need to be careful where we tread, or we can risk becoming too familiar.
Most successful client interactions are confident and genuine. This success is often the result of the ability to connect and share appropriate small talk with a client, before or after having a professional dialogue.
The great thing is that if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a better conversation than the standard “Hello,” or “Hey! My name is——-“, which are normally followed by an awkward silence, a short reply, and more silence.
The secret to great conversation is to be interested in what others say and make what you say sound interesting.
Conversations with clients can often feel boring and forced, but what if there was a way to make small talk fun? Luckily, we have these five fail-safe topics that you can use to improve your relationships with your clients.
Topic 1 | Talk About Personal Interests
What have you been up to? What are your interests? What things interest you the most?
Everyone likes having attention paid to them, and inquiring respectfully into their personal life gives an impression that you are really trying to connect.
When you talk, make sure that you listen to the interests of the other person and then respond appropriately. Tell them about what you enjoy, and if the topics are more complex, try to explain a little about them.
Once you know their interests, ask genuine questions and try to learn more. People love to explain their passions to those who they think will take fair notice.
Personal interests tend to be very deeply connected to a person’s character and speak volumes about their values and priorities, so as a plus, you can gain a better understanding of the person you’re talking to.
This may lead to further pleasant interactions in the future. These topics tend to take many unpredictable turns, from politics to sports, movies, or places, depending on the people. Inquire a little further each time.
A few minutes of these questions, and you’ll be able to start a chain that can last as long as you need.
Topic 2 | Talk About Goals
What do you want to be in five years? What skill would you like to learn if you were given a chance? Would you rather do A, or B? If you could be an animal, what would you like to become?
These and similar questions pleasantly trigger a person’s wishful thinking. Our minds don’t usually remember conversations word for word. Instead, they are imprinted in the form of the feelings we associate with those conversations.
For example, if you had a long chat with someone and argued toward its end, your mind is likely to generalize the whole experience as an argument, and you might avoid that person next time you see them.
If you trigger someone’s wishful or fantasy thinking, they may associate you with a good conversation and be more likely to talk to you next time as well.
Try to be adaptable, as some people are more poetic and philosophical than others. Everyone’s fantasy will be different.
Your task is to relate to the person and start a conversation oriented to your shared interests. Who knows, tapping into the imaginative, creative side of the human interaction might lead to very interesting conclusions.
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Topic 3 | Discuss Future Travel
What trips do you have planned for the next year? How often do you travel? When was the last time you went out of town? Any future travel related to your profession?
Topics that are oriented around the pleasantries of the future are good conversation starters. As we mentioned earlier, people like to share their plans and enjoy explaining to those who have interest in their goals.
Share information about any trips you plan to make in the coming year, and take time to value each other’s future goals and plans.
The conversation might not be questioning but instead more exploratory, allowing both people to examine the interests of the other person.
A conversation like this might be good to hold with people who are ambitious and organized. The topic could also result in the sharing of ideas, and that could be beneficial to both parties.
The discussion could also revolve around any famous attractions you both aim to visit. This normally ends up with both people having more geographical knowledge of the tourist attractions, and a deeper relationship with the person you’re talking to.
Later interactions with the same individual will be smoother, since you’ll already have a base of topics to refer to. Try this out as well.
Topic 4 | Talk About Hobbies
What is one hobby that you would like to have? What hobbies would you like to start in the next year? What do you like to do outside of work?
The hobby card is a fail-proof one to play because most people tend to have hobbies, and those who don’t often crave one.
This conversation could be a very interesting one, as the person adopting the hobby usually feels pretty strongly about it, and you will find yourself in a passionate, meaningful discussion if you play it right.
Hobbies can hold a very deep, important part of a person’s heart, sometimes attached to significant events in their life.
Their chosen hobby also tends to give away the personal traits or values possessed by a person, so it’s easy to build small talk around them.
The next time you feel you’ve run out of words, try asking about the other person’s hobby, and you will see the magic.
Topic 5 | Sharing Memories, Discussing Past
What are some of your best childhood memories? What was the most tiring thing that you’ve ever done? What is one thing you were most successful at?
As a child, what was your dream? What things in your childhood do you find lame now? These sorts of questions stimulate our minds with past experiences and generate positive present ones with other people.
These topics are most appropriate when you have developed a basic rapport with the client, and are ready to explore the further dimensions of each other’s personalities. Take a little deeper ride into the conversation.
Some benefits of discussing memories are that you will give the client a chance to vent, while revisiting good things from the past will make them feel good, and thus make you feel better about yourself.
A conversation built around past personal experiences is likely to be more intimate and hence more fulfilling, and is excellent when trying to make small talk with a person whom you’ve already met, but don’t know much about.
These five topics will make small talk much smoother for you, but keep in mind that you also need to develop a rapport with the client and keep your questions relevant. The conversation should be fluid and without turbulence, such as suddenly deciding to change topics with another question. Remember also that small talk, or any talk is supposed to be two way and should have a perfect balance of talking and listening.
Also important is the quality of the conversation. Small talk revolving around personal topics requires patient listening and replies, meaning that it should have appropriate pauses, for example, to extract a few more words out of the other person. Verbal reinforcers like “Aha!” or “Hm…” are enough to reassure others that you’re paying attention. Lastly, aim to add value when chatting with clients. Not only will this enhance your reputation, but your conversations will be much more engaging.
We hope that you find these topics for making small talk interesting, and will try to use them in your daily social interactions.
At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.
Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!
Never the Right Word
Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation.
In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.
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