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Let’s Put Some Strategy in That Small Talk

Let’s Put Some Strategy in That Small Talk

Small talk is something we all do.  We do it to be polite and connect with others.  It get’s the conversation going and helps both parties feel at ease before diving into business.  Some of us dread it. Some of us thrive on it.

Any conversation between yourself and a client (or COI) can be rife with opportunities – if you’re thinking strategically.  The information you uncover can help you deepen existing relationships and at times find new ones! We coach advisors to have “Strategic Small Talk” with their key relationships.  Strategic Small Talk is basically conversing with a motive.


Step 1: Recognizing the Conversation Opportunities

Opportunities to have Strategic Small Talk are everywhere.  You can have Strategic Small Talk at the beginning of a client review meeting.  It can happen during a phone conversation between a client and team member (it doesn’t always have to be you!).   It might also happen when the client is waiting in a reception area or meeting room.  The possibilities are endless.  It’s just a matter of recognizing the opportunities to have these conversations when they are present. Don’t just go through the motions.

One of our favorite lines to initiate Strategic Small Talk at the beginning of a client review meeting is… “So, what’s coming up for you in the next few months?”  The amount of information you can uncover after such a simple question is insurmountable at times. 


Step 2: Determining What Information You Want to Uncover

Unlike typical small talk, Strategic Small Talk should have one or more purposes. 

  • Uncovering who your clients and COIs know (we call this sourcing names)
  • Identifying personal passions, hobbies, and vacations
  • Finding out about planned trips
  • Uncovering any changes in their family life

You get the point.  The key is to have a few of these motives in mind, to help you ask the right questions and drive the conversation.


Step 3: Putting the Information You Uncovered into Action

It’s important that you document any information uncovered after every Strategic Small Talk conversation.  Take a couple minutes to input the information into your CRM system.  The goal is to then use this information for small gift ideas, Intimate Event ideas, and of course (and most importantly) personal introduction possibilities.   Information without action is pointless, so when you do uncover something of use… use it!

Try it for yourself during the next conversation you have with a client.  But remember, while you are attempting to genuinely deepen the relationship with your client, your motive of uncovering as much personal information as possible should not be apparent to them.  You’re skills should be so well honed and refined that they are virtually seamless.



Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.  @StephenBoswell  @KevinANichols


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