A Crucial Conversation may be defined as conversation, which occurs when people are emotionally charged. It’s where decisions are made which can take people down several paths, each of which leads to different results

In other words, the results of a “crucial conversation” may have a big impact on the participant’s quality of life or future.

Examples of Crucial Conversations are:

* A one-on-one conversation
* Board meetings
* Client calls
* Customer calls

Thus, being better equipped with the right tools is an essential sales and management tool.

In spite of the fact that I pride myself on being an extremely good communicator—I am tough enough to tell my kids, my employees, my boss, and my clients the truth even when it hurts to do so—I have now learned that I wasn’t as effective as I could have been.

It wasn’t that I brought a particular subject forward successfully; it was the manner of my communication and its response thereto that could have been improved. I was prepared, I listened, I remained calm, yet nevertheless the conversations were not as successful as they could have been.

Improve your conversational prowess

I read and enjoyed the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzer, published by McGraw Hill in 2002. I also took their two-day class on how to be better at these types of conversations—this article is based on the book.

I used these acquired conversation skills with several clients and in a couple of personal relationships: the results were tremendous.

Sadly, many people walk away from discussing the elephant in the room, because they fear the consequences of speaking up.

Examples include, “Yes, my Vice President of Finance should be running sales, but she is so good at her job, I don’t want to rock the boat.”

Another one: “Yes my Vice President of Sales should be going out on sales calls with his staff and coaching his employees more frequently, but he is so good at working with his own portfolio of clients, I can’t afford to lose those relationships.”

Or, “Yes, two of my salespeople have underperformed for too long, but they are good guys.”

Or my favorite, “Yes the board should be held accountable for giving us referrals. But they are not.”

Three Truths of conversations

So when a conversation is started, keep an open mind and be aware of these three truths: Yours, Theirs, and Reality.

An example of this: A sales manager checks her employee’s credit card receipts while reviewing his expense statement and discovers a hotel room receipt, when he doesn’t travel. She immediately confronts him and yells at him that he is trying to cheat the company. The young salesperson is at a Chinese restaurant eating with a client, and the owner also owns the hotel next door. Thus the credit card bill says the hotel name on it.

In the above example: The sales manager has her truth, the salesperson has his truth, and the reality is maybe she doesn’t trust him over something else and and that is causing these issues.

1.) You should have a goal before you start a crucial conversation—it isn’t always to win.

2.) If you are able to prepare for a crucial conversation, do so. You can accomplish this by being crystal clear on how you see things. I don’t know how to help you here; who starts the dialogue is always a game of cat and mouse. (I don’t want to talk first, but I will when I need to.)

3.)  This is the important part- make sure you are tentative on what you say, because you have one specific view that is dictated by your experience. For example “I believe this could be true…” Then listen, without interruption to the other individual’s story.

What happens when things don’t go your way?

In the book “Crucial Conversations” the authors talk about the two places people go when they don’t like what is being said: Silence or Violence.

Either of these hinders the success of a conversation. If someone is yelling you can’t get anywhere, and if someone completely shuts down you can’t move forward either.

Those obstacles are why it is important to choose your words carefully. When you find yourself in a conversation where a person reacts to you with either silence or violence, attempt the following: “What I don’t want to do is…” or “What I do want to do is…”

For example, “John, I do want us to continue to work together, and prepare you for your next promotion. What I don’t want to do is have you be worried about your job here. If we can work through this issue I think it will really help.”

This is called contrasting, and it helps bring the conversation back on track where openness is welcome. After you hear the other person’s story, don’t be tempted to go into silence or violence either.

My challenge is that I want to listen first and really understand the other person’s side of a story before I share my story. The parallel to what I teach in sales is, a salesperson should always listen first, and not walk in the door selling. You learn more by listening.

Find a solution, don’t offer one

Don’t push Your Truth; try to work towards a mutually beneficial solution. When both parties agree upon a goal before the Crucial Conversation starts, you are much more likely to be successful—this is the key to Crucial Conversations.

The difficulty is we can’t always prepare for these crucial conversations. A casual conversation may turn Crucial at any time. Then the adrenaline starts flowing. Being aware of this occurrence could be of vital importance.

Prepare and practice these skills on someone you know this week to get your feet wet. Thus, should a spontaneous Crucial Conversation occur at a later time, you have your tools polished and ready to be used.

Learn to be better at Crucial Conversations and you will be a better human being, a better salesperson, and a stronger leader

As always, good luck and good selling. Follow me on Twitter

No part of this may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Deborah Gavello Copyright @2016

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