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How to engage in a conversation with a recipient that only gives one-word answers?

I would break the ice when starting conversations with new connections by asking "How have they been coping during the COVID 19 situation?" etc.

Many gave me generic answers like, "I'm good, how are you?" (Seems like I'm the only one invested in the conversation)

I find it much easier to continue a conversation when the person replies something like, "I've been great! My company has been shifting our operations online and have adopted the use of a new software......."

#sales #conversation #networking

Thank you comment icon First, you could start with a more targeted question to kick things off. If that does not land, you could be ready to share something short and relatable about what you are dealing with to break the ice. For example, "I've been on the phone with Comcast for the last 4 hours trying to get my internet fixed, so I couldn't be more excited to speak with you in comparison!" If they continue to give you short answers throughout the discussion, you can pull the pendulum and say something along the lines of, "it sounds like I've caught you during a challenging time, would it be helpful to shelve the discussion for today and pick it up later in the week?" They will either come around or confirm it is a bad time, which would save you time as well. Hope this helps! Nate Collins

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Lindsey’s Answer

If you have a chance, try to do a little research before you speak with someone. For example, see if you can find out where they went to college, where they live, or what they like to do. From there, ask a question that is personally tailored to your recipient. For example, if they live in FL and you have been to FL before, mention something specific about the area. This helps build rapport in a natural way and helps alleviate awkward introductions! Good luck!
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Amanda’s Answer

Become a master of open ended questions. If you ask the right questions, you'll get the recipient to open up.
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Kim’s Answer

Talking to strangers is difficult. Actually, the response, "I'm good, how are you?" isn't a bad one. Conversations build over time. So, your next statement/question could reveal more about yourself, and then, they might reveal more about themselves. For example, if I was playing your part, I might say something like, "I'm good, but then, I live alone. I can't imagine how people with large families are dealing with this. I'd go bonkers if I was locked up with my family!" Or, "I'm doing good, but I can't get my 84 year old mom to stay home. She keeps finding excuses to run to the store."

The example you gave, sounds like you possibly expect positivity in the response. But, the human condition often is not positive. People are trying to cope; some are doing better than others. In my first example, talking about people in general, it allows the conversation to shift to the general situation, and talking about people in general, rather than expecting the person to actually divulge information about himself to me, a complete stranger! (but, leaves open that possibility, say, if he lives with family, he is free to volunteer that if he so chooses.) In my second example, talking about my mom, allows the conversation to shift to ME, rather than making him feel that he has to talk about himself. However, he is free to do so if he wants, so, he could volunteer that he is having trouble getting his grandparents to voluntarily quarantine.

Another idea is to try a different topic! The pandemic is affecting people in many different ways, and, there are lots of differences of opinion as to what is the correct way the government should be handling it. So, when he says, "I'm good, how are you?" You could say, "I'm good, but because we are working from home, my dog is getting totally spoiled, and it's going to break his heart when we go back to work." Dogs!!! Everyone loves dogs! Always a great conversation! "You have a dog!? What kind is it? How old is he?"

See where this is going? Don't expect complete strangers to open up to you! Dogs, sports, weather. . . Find something to discuss that isn't personal!

Also realize you have no idea what someone is coping with. So, be prepared for some pretty heavy responses. My dog was diagnosed with cancer right when the pandemic started. I took him to the Emergency Room, an oncologist, and a radiation treatment vet, NONE of whom I ever got to meet face to face. I had to wait outside! It was stressful! If I were to tell you that story, are you prepared to deal with it? That's why it's better to try to keep it light!

Hopefully something I've said will help you as you re-evaluate how to approach strangers. Don't give up! It takes a lot of practice! If you are not at work, and just out and about, you could also find that wearing a particular t-shirt or baseball cap helps pave the way. A particular band or sports team, for example. Good luck!

Kim
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Aaron’s Answer

Amazing question, Yew Lin, and to be completely honest with you, I was this kid in school. I wasn't very keen on the idea of counseling let alone sharing my thoughts with a stranger. My recommendation for you is to first do some background research. Figure out ways that you can connect with the person, whether that be a similar interests, hobbies, food, connections, etc. Rather than posing as more professional, work on developing a relationship where the person can look for you to support and be more open. Additionally, rather than asking direct questions, ask open ended questions that require an answer more than "good." Hopefully these strategies help, and I'd love to hear if they do or don't work, and happy to provide more insight either way. Keep me updated!
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Suddhasattwa’s Answer

Hi YKL,

You are not alone and I have battled this past 16 years in my sales career converting many introverts into advocates. Yes you can also do it but it needs a lot of physiology studies and must read a book of Dale Carnegie - How to Win Friends and Influence People. Its a book of 1936 but still works like a bible.

Understanding other people isn’t easy, because we view the world through our own filters and assume that if we do something a certain way, then it must be good for everybody, which is a big blunder and we lose trust easily and hard to recover. So don't try to fix which is not broken but try few of these below:

1. Find, Learn and analyze what makes them interested (do a social search on them, topics they hit likes/shared)
2. Learn the brands they follow, wear, car they drive - ask recommendations
3. Dip-checks with all questions and spot his/her point of interest and do a double-click on it
4. Some dont like small talks with strangers so avoid those
5. Offer them on any ongoing issue in his job to earn his trust and strengthen your relationship
6. By chance they start to speak - never interrupt them, acknowledge them and ask follow up questions and converse enough for them to associate you with this memory of conversation/topic.
7. Dont force them to be extrovert, there are reasons why they are as this. Allow them time to respond to your messages/mails.
8. Few introverts are over cautious about their appearance or other party's appearance, smell or body language so focus on non-verbal communication, avoid eye contact and focus on the drawing on the desk about your plan and ask how they feel about it, get opinions - it make them feel valued though being introverts.

There's a long list actually and its totally experimental based, there is no single yard stick to measure them and fix it. So practice and practice.

Good luck on your pursuit
Let us know how it helps.
~suddho
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Sunny’s Answer

Hi Yew,

I think it might be helpful if you focus on your goal from the conversations. If you just want to expand your network, I would try to have more friendly questions, which city they live, what they do during the weekends, what recipes they tried recently, etc.

Or, if you are trying to sell to strangers, you can start with a question that can be related to your products/services. For example, if you are selling electronics, "during this time, I can't live without Netflix, have you watched any interesting shows/movies?" and then "this device can provide multiple channels and give more selections on view settings." You can naturally connect the dots from the flow of the conversations.

Hope this helps!
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Mitchell’s Answer

Prior to your meetings, understand who you are meeting with, identify your goals (best and acceptable), have as much knowledge of the organization regarding why you are there, prior to arrival. Create you questions in advance, work to have situational and attitude based questions that provide more than a single word answer. Such as, your current team generates reports manually which takes time away from your organization goals. While tools to measure the success are very important, how does the time spent on these reports affect the task, timelines for your goals and if this distracts the team for your core goal?
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Doug’s Answer

As most have mentioned ask opened ended questions, do research on the person, genuinely be interested in them and the business.

Also conversation and trust come with time and rapport. Provide some value to the customer before asking things in return.
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Mark’s Answer

You're on the right track. Try to frame your question in a way that makes it almost impossible to respond to with one word or a short phrase. Examples...

- What are the top three things you like about...?
- Is there an experience in your life where you...?

I hope this helps!
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Carlotta’s Answer

Hi Yew. Its best to do research on the person/company before you engage in conversation.
Have a clear objective/outcome in mind that you want to achieve from the call. Also, be aware of the person's position... i.e. for C-Level, you want to ask strategic, visionary-related questions as opposed to other positions which may be more tactical. Be sure to ask open-ended questions and show genuine interest and enthusiasm. "Tell me about xxxx" What keeps you up at night" "How can I help".
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Greta’s Answer

Open-ended questions are definitely the way to go to avoid yes/no answers, but pre-call research can help a lot too. If you do some preliminary googling about the customer you're calling/their industry/their competitors etc. you will have plenty of open ended questions and insights about a topic of interest to them and will likely get much farther in conversation.
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Stephanie’s Answer

You could ask a more pointed question that requires them to describe versus answering in short words or sentences. You could also try to compliment them in some way and/or word as you are seeking help or advice. In your example, you said "How have they been coping during the COVID 19 situation?" Maybe instead try, " Covid has been a challenging time for everyone. I value your opinion, so can you please share some ideas or actions you, or someone you know, are taking to best cope with the pandemic? "
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shane’s Answer

Open ended questions. Example of questions would start off:

Tell me .....
How do .....
Tell me about .....
What is ......
Why ......
Thank you comment icon SHANE! That's what I was going to say as well! :) Regina Hofele
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Staci’s Answer

Start practicing the art of asking open-ended questions.
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Joe’s Answer

One of my favorite questions in those scenarios is "What else?" If you ask that a few times, people usually start to think a little bit deeper. Sometimes your will get the "that's it" comment, but in a light hearted manner, you can say that you know there is more and you would like to hear it.
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Lilian’s Answer

It is easier to engage with people you have something in common. Before talking with a person try to do some research on where they live, jobs they had, schools, activities. For business linked in is a good source.
Try to talk about some of these areas. When a person likes something, they usually like to talk about it.
This is a good way to break the ice.
if you want to get some information try to do open questions that give the opportunity to elaborate.

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Dawn’s Answer

Hi - I would say repour building is a huge help in this type of situation, the ability to make a personal connection / come across as human makes it much easier for people to open up to you. See where you have common interest. You can also use open ended question.