How to Open a Conversation with a Prospect

by Jade Handy on June 6, 2013

Balloons and Car Lots.

This article, How to Open a Conversation with a Prospect, is about using NLP conversational postulates in sales.  A conversational postulate is when you comment on something in a statement form, but intend for it to be interpreted as a command to do something that’s not explicit.

Conventional wisdom in regards to how to open a conversation with a prospect, is to quickly get to a benefit statement.  “We can increase your sales by 30%, by the end of this month!”

Now, not to say this wouldn’t be a great way to open a cold call, but in, say, an auto dealership car lot environment, you can imagine how that sales approach would come across.

How about something that really opens a conversation and allows it to get started in the right direction?  How about something like, “I noticed you two were noticing this car.”  Statement.  Pause. (a pause is kind of like shutting up after a closing question, btw)

What do you suppose will happen next?  That’s right.  The prospect will most likely reciprocate the gentle gesture with whatever is on their mind.  And, whatever is on their mind is where you want to start, right?  Now, imagine they say something along the lines of, “yeah, it’s a nice color, but I don’t think our four kids will fit in the trunk of this coupe!”

Well, hey, can’t win ’em all, right?  Well, not so fast.  How much information and buying criteria they have given you already?  Quite a lot, actually.

You know that had you said something like, “It looks good on you, you should buy it!”  It would have went over like a an umbrella in a hurricane.

You know what color they at least appreciate, and possibly would buy.

You know that they aren’t shopping for a coupe, today.

You know that they have four kids.

You know that they, well, let’s just make a list.
They appreciate style and still feel young at heart.
He has a sense of humor.
They were, at least, drawn in by your car lot selection.
They are shopping for a vehicle.
Having four kids = good chance seating capacity is a “need”
They like to agree, then change direction.
They aren’t blowing you off with “no thanks, we’re just looking.”
He assumes you are initiating conversation with him (vs. her,) or should.

And, it’s now open territory to ask at least one more conversation extender about his children, like “Four kids, eh?!”

And, next thing you know, you’re nurturing a relationship (nobody likes being sold) in order to earn the sale.

Now that’s a great way to open a conversation and one that’s headed in the right direction!  What other ways can you approach a prospect with a different approach than they are expecting?


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Behind the Scenes: commenting on something in this way is called a conversational postulate, which is, in NLP terms, a Milton Model language pattern.  More on this, visit

Another way to Get Common Ground

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