The Art of Connecting, Communicating, and Completing any Conversation

By Aletta de Wal in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

The art reception was in a bright airy space. The artwork was well-curated and professionally displayed. I arrived early enough to start a couple of conversations with the artist. ‘Thanks for coming—oh I’ll be right back.”

A minute later. . . “Now where were we?”

Networking and Communicating Tips

When I spoke with the artist a couple of days afterward, she said she loved having so many guests but was frustrated because she never really got to finish any conversations, or complete a sale. Many artists have this mindset. “I had a great time,” they say, “but I didn’t sell anything!”

While I understand those feelings, receptions are only a single point in the entire sales cycle, like a comma in a sentence. Sales may happen, but they are not a given.

In fact, meeting people in person at a reception or any event, is simply the first of many steps in a sale—the step of connecting.

So let’s start there.

First, focus on connecting

The proper “connecting” language should show respect to the other person. It’s about taking the time to actually meet the person before “getting down to brass tacks.”

• Acknowledge them before you ask or tell them something
• Be ready to connect before you talk
• Make yourself accessible

Connecting language includes our society’s casual greetings like, “Hello, how are you? Fine, thanks, how’s your family?” as well as more personal questions, gestures and exclamations. Some people call these “niceties” and say they are hollow, but I’ve been in situations where they are skipped over and that feels harsh to me.

Once we’ve connected appropriately, we are “warmed up” and we can begin to communicate with each other rather than talk impersonally. These simple phrases let the other person know they matter as much as, or more than, whatever exchange is taking place.

NOTE: Connecting language is also the language of trust. The more we know each other, the more we can build and earn trust, which is the foundation of any sale.

Next, communicate

Real communication—what is it? We communicate all our lives (improvising as we go along) but few of us have been taught the attitudes, skills and habits of good communication.

The true goal of communicating is to understand each other. Here are a few tips:

• Listen twice as much as you talk
• When you talk, ask more open questions than making closed statements
• Clarify what you heard to make sure your understanding is the same as the other person’s

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, your only job is understand that person better by the end of the conversation. So listen with all of your being—eyes, ears, and intuition. Consider what you don’t know yet and focus on that. Avoid preparing your sales pitch until you have more information.

Since communication is, by nature, imperfect, while you are listening, take note of anything that is unclear or that you would like to know more about. When it’s your turn to talk, your job is to clarify what you think you have heard. The best way to do this is to ask questions or paraphrase what you think you heard and ask the person to confirm.

Once you’ve done this, you are ready to respond to the person—who they are, what they are there for, and what they want of you.

NOTE: If you were hoping this is the point where you could start working towards a sale, then you’ve slipped out of responding mode into pre-recorded conversations, AKA marketing.

Marketing phrases are great for. . . well. . . marketing, and you’ll re-use them often to help shape the language people use to describe your brand. But there is little chance any of those phrases will drop into an individual conversation and sound like a real response to them. They’ll just hear a canned reply instead.

Never forget, communicating is complicated. There are so many ways our messages go astray, are misunderstood or ignored. The good news is that we get by communicating imperfectly as long as we have connected first and our intention is to understand, clarify, and respond.

Try this. Read aloud each sentence below, emphasizing the word in bold italics each time.

I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.
I didn’t say he stole the money.

Same meaning or different each time?

We all think differently so we hear and speak differently. Still, we can understand each other if we have a common goal of meeting each other between the words, tone of voice and body language.

Real meaning is only created when you and the other are satisfied you understand each other. That means you’ll have to confirm meaning with each other to be certain you have achieved the same understanding.

Finally, complete

Completing language shows the other person what you will do next as a result of your interaction.

• Acknowledge them for sharing time and ideas with you
• Be ready to say thank you and farewell or ask if there is a next step
• After you hear the answer, describe what you will do

Completion is the last part of any conversation, even if it is a quick “See you next time!”

Certainly you’ll want to use factual language to confirm what happened, and what will or will not happen next. What did each of you say that you would do? Reiterate it.

You’ll also want to use connecting language to take leave of each other. “Thanks for coming. I appreciate your acknowledgements. Hope to see you again soon.” You may or may not meet again but if you do, your relationship can progress.

If it sounds simple, maybe that’s because it is! I’ll end with this:

My first coaching mentor Peter Block said he always approached a conversation as if it was both the first and last time he would ever see that person.

So start there and leave aside any thought of sales—at least for the duration of your conversation. You’ll probably find yourself communicating much, much, better than you ever thought possible.

Until next time!


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