Driving the Conversation

When dealing with prospects, it is easy to get excited and lose sight of your sales strategy. Especially with a solid product or company, you can lose site of who you’re speaking with, making it even harder to build rapport. Every prospect is going to have behavior traits that are different than your own.  This week, Scott Zimmerman shows us how we can use The Platinum Rule in order to help guide us through any conversation and take your sales game to the next level.

Driving the Conversation

by Scott Zimmerman

Are You Driving Miss Daisy or Riding with Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

To help you gain immediate improvements in your sales conversations, I recommend that you mentally picture yourself getting into the passenger seat of their car as they sit behind the steering wheel. You are being welcomed into their space; they are picking up the tab for the gas as you ride together toward destinations yet unknown.

While it’s perfectly natural for you to be excited about your products or services, the purpose of your conversation is to get your prospect to describe to you what motivates them. This requires you to develop questioning and listening skills. Taking an active interest in what interests the other person is the best way to develop a fast and solid connection.

One main aspect I pay attention to is my ear-to-mouth ratio: I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I’m fully aware that every minute I’m grabbing the steering wheel (speaking), I’m steering us further and further from the destination they desire. However, if I ask questions that get the other person talking, more often than not we wind up right where I was hoping we would go. When the other person is telling me about his/her desires and interests, they never once argue with themselves for deciding to move forward on a solution they arrived at on their own.

Here’s where The Platinum Rule comes into play: “Treat others the way they want to be treated!” The best application of The Platinum Rule is to make small adaptations in both the direction of the conversation as well as the speed. These minor adjustments make the journey comfortable while they are “driving” (talking) the conversation. Here are tips to help you monitor and adapt to their speed and temperature:

Some people simply have a faster pace than I do. They talk, drive, eat and make decision faster than I do. Conversely, some other people have a slower, more methodical approach to decisions and opportunities than me. By adapting to their pace, I make it easy and comfortable for other to “go shopping” with me as we discuss options that may help them grow their sales.

The other dimension of their behavior I adjust to is their degree of warmth. Some people are more “people-focused” than I am. They are very open to discuss personal issues and feelings, they like to sit close to me and they don’t seem to mind free-flowing conversations. On the other hand, many people I know are a little “cooler” than me. They tend to keep a bit of a distance physically and emotionally; preferring conversations about things, facts and business as opposed to personal issues.

Below is a simple guideline I use to help me notice their degree of Openness and Directness, plus a reminder of how I can make small adaptations during our conversation to keep them comfortable.

First, I notice their natural pace and assertiveness while they are speaking (or “driving” the conversation):

THIS PERSON APPEARS TO BE FASTER THAN ME…

  • More confident and assertive
  • Faster paced
  • More opinionated
  • More impatient
  • A faster decision maker

SO I WILL…

  • Answer their questions directly
  • Lead with headlines
  • Let them know where the conversation is going
  • Omit details unless specifically asked
  • Ask them for their decision

THIS PERSON APPEARS TO BE SLOWER THAN ME…

  • More quiet and cooperative
  • A more patient listener
  • Uncomfortable with change and making decisions
  • Less direct in asking for what they want
  • Having difficulty in sharing their true feelings or opinions

SO I WILL…

  • Ask more open-ended questions
  • Allow for plenty of time for them to process their thoughts
  • Jot down my thoughts while they are processing their thoughts
  • Exhibit more patience during our conversations
  • Give them both time and space for them to make a decision

Secondly, I pay attention to their degree of warmth and openness:

THIS PERSON APPEARS TO BE WARMER THAN ME…

  • More comfortable sharing their feelings
  • More willing to discuss private affairs
  • More open with their use of time
  • Comfortable with conversations that flow in different directions
  • More of a natural hugger and toucher

SO I WILL…

  • Ask questions about their goals, visions and dreams
  • Share a little bit more about my life
  • Allow for plenty of time for our conversations
  • Ask questions to gently steer the conversation back to the agenda
  • Allow them to sit a little closer than I would naturally prefer

THIS PERSON APPEARS TO BE COOLER THAN ME…

  • More interested in facts, processes and data than their feelings
  • Unwilling to discuss private matters
  • Guarded with my use of their time
  • Someone that prefers short, focused conversations
  • Someone that keeps people at arm’s distance

SO I WILL…

  • Keep the conversation focused on the business at hand
  • Only ask questions about the business
  • Remain aware of the length of each conversation
  • Stop talking when we’ve covered the content
  • Not invade their personal space

When I learned how to adapt to each prospect’s observable behaviors, I enjoyed a substantial increase in sales. When you master the art of adapting to others’ speed and temperature, you, too, will benefit from reductions in interpersonal tension, increases in trust, and… more prospects asking to buy from you!


As a speaker, trainer and consultant, Scott Zimmerman is known for his lively, humorous delivery. He gently leads people into a new way of understanding interpersonal relationships, the power of persuasion and how to leverage new technologies.

Scott had the vision to combine his cutting-edge marketing technology with Dr. Tony Alessandra’s proven sales psychology. The end result was Sales Elevator. Sales Elevator helps professional salespeople build—and maintain—meaningful relationships with (literally) hundreds of their clients, prospects, colleagues and referral partners.

Scott has also co-authored several books, including The Platinum Rule for Sales Mastery, The Platinum Rule for Small Business Mastery, The Platinum Rule for Trade Show Mastery and Selling with Style.

In 2010, Scott was voted one of the most influential people in his field by the Sales Lead Management Association.

To reach Scott Zimmerman: 1-330-848-0444 or Scott@SalesElevator.com

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