Your ability to have a good, rapport-building conversation is a vital part of the prospecting process for any network marketer. Thus, for anyone looking to build a successful business by mastering the art of prospecting and networking, having good conversational skills is a definite plus.

For some reason, this assertion seems to strike terror into the hearts of so many aspiring network marketing leaders. It is as though having the quality of good conversational skills is some holy grail sought after by the masses but attained by only a select few.

Nonsense! What we’re looking at here is a false premise.

So many people have confided to me that they are not good conversationalists, and when I ask them why they feel that way, they invariably tell me it’s because they don’t have the “gift of gab.” I always tell them the same thing, and it always comes as a surprise: “Good! In fact, that’s the very reason you are potentially an excellent conversationalist!”

Think that good conversationalists have the “gift of gab”—meaning that they can (and do) talk endlessly, effortlessly and on any topic, is a false premise that will by its very nature lead to an incorrect conclusion.

The truth is, people who are genuinely great conversationalists tend to not talk all that much. What they do a great deal of, and do very well, is listen. And they know how to ask questions that get the other person talking—and even more, that get the other person talking about the things that person is most interested in talking about. Which, not surprisingly, usually turns out to be themselves, their lives, and those things about themselves and their lives they find interesting.

How do great conversationalists do this? With simple words and simple questions. Nothing special, nothing spectacular, nothing earth-shattering; no poetic verbiage or dazzling display of loquacious wit and pyrotechnic perspicacity. (I admit: I had to look those words up.) They ask nice, simple questions that the other will enjoy answering, questions that allow the other person to be the “star” of the conversation.

Have you ever been in one of those rare conversations where the other person has you talking all about yourself? Didn’t you come away from that conversation saying to yourself, “Wow, what an engaging conversation that was! What a fascinating conversationalist that person is!”

The person with the gift of gab tends to talk about himself—but those without this “gift” find it easier to focus on the other person and listen. And it’s a good thing they do.

In my book Endless Referrals, I discuss what I call “Feel-Good” questions that effectively begin the rapport-building process. These questions include, “Tom, how did you get started in the widget business?” and, “Mary, what do you enjoy most about what you do?”

These questions are not at all “prospecty” in nature; they are simply questions that the person to whom you are speaking enjoys answering, whether you just met at a Chamber of Commerce after-hours business/social event, at a social party at someone’s home, or in line at the post office. People just downright feel good about being asked these questions and having the opportunity to answer them.

Another type of question is also very effective for building rapport, allowing you to ask questions the other person will enjoy answering, and for which they will immediately feel good about you just because you asked. They are called “F-O-R-M” questions.

F = Family

Don’t people love talking about their families? A talented spouse, athletic or straight-A-getting son or daughter, or precocious grandchild…there’s no more riveting topic. Important point here: let the other person focus on his child. Don’t add, “Oh, my son did even better than that.”

O = Occupation

As mentioned above: When did you get started in this business? What do you love most about what you do?

R = Recreation

Do people enjoy talking about their recreational activities? Absolutely. Often they are absolutely passionate about them and will talk about them for as long as you allow them to. In fact, the two Feel-Good questions above work very well when asking about someone’s recreational activities, too.

M = Message

A person’s “message” is what he or she stands for. Are they involved in any causes they enjoy discussing?

Focus on F-O-R-M during your conversations and you’ll find that not only will the other person enjoy the conversation immensely, but you will too. After all, there’s no pressure on you to do the talking and be fascinating…you’re allowing him or her to be. This sums it up:

I enjoy talking to John because he’s the most interesting person I know. But I really enjoy talking to Cindy—because she makes me feel like the most interesting person I know.

Again, notice something fascinating (and very important) about both the Feel-Good questions and the F-O-R-M questions: there is nothing clever about them. There is nothing slick, fancy, complicated or over-the-top about them. There is nothing about these questions that takes any type of glibness or spectacular abilities to express. There’s no need for it. And that’s a good thing.

Plain and simple. If you want to be a good conversationalist, keep it very simple, and let the other people do the talking about themselves and that which they find interesting.

That way, you’ll always be in good FORM.


BOB BURG is on the faculty of Networking University and is
author of
Endless Referrals and The Success Formula.