Save time with these Conversational Shortcuts™

I don’t mind the occasional small talk, but when I’m doing my worky-work I prefer to cut to chase and get things done. These ‘conversational shortcuts’ help you cut to the chase during (online) conversations.

Call/meeting requests

When people ask to ‘jump on call’ (who the heck came up with that phrase?) or ‘grab a coffee’ they generally want something from you, but they are either too afraid to ask for it directly, want you to get invested (cunning sales people 😉), aren’t sure of their question, or are just used to wasting time on calls and meetings.

Cut to the chase with these four magical words:

“How can I help?”

If they send you a Twitter DM, simply propose to handle it over DM. If they send you an email, do it over email. Etc.

Asking how you can help does not only make you sound polite, but it also removes any social pressure for small talk. As an added bonus it forces them to clearly communicate what it is they want from you, which can save you both a lot of time.

If their inquiry warrants an in depth conversation you can still schedule a call or meetup, but in my experience the majority of cases can be handled this way.

One-sided business proposals

If you want to achieve your goals, you’re going to have to make friends. In business these are called ‘partnerships’, but in my experience the most fruitful partnerships are more about the personal relationship underlying them than the word “partnership” would lead you to believe.

That said, once you achieve some level of success you’ll start to attract people seeing you as an ‘opportunity’. You can recognise these people by emailing you ‘partnership opportunities’ where they forget to mention how any of this is beneficial to you. If you’re lucky you might still get a lame attempt like this:

“We have this cool service for startups. Can you blast it out to your list? We think your users will love it.”

How nice of you to think of my users! Here’s my answer:

“Cool! What’s your budget?”

This will shut them up real quick. Look, if they don’t have a budget, and they don’t take the time to come up with a creative solution to return the favor, they clearly don’t value what they are asking for so you’re better off spending your time on someone that does recognize the value you can bring to the table.

I’m not saying you should never do favors or help people out, but if this isn’t one of those cases asking for their budget is a great way to shift the conversation to something more transactional where it becomes clear real quick if they came empty handed.

Resolving tricky customer problems

Sometimes you mess up. Shit happens.

We recently experimented with some new promotional services at BetaList and for some of the customers the results were pretty bad. How did we solve it? Simple. We asked them how they would like it to be solved.

“What do you feel is a fair solution?”

Just ask the other person how they’d like the problem to be solved. Yes, it’s that simple and it works really well. Whenever you’re unsure how to deal with a tricky situation, ask the other person what they’d prefer. Most people are quite reasonable if you empower them and cutting to the chase saves you both a lot of time and grievances

This isn’t rocket science of course, but hopefully it will help you next time you have to deal with an otherwise unnecessary wasteful conversation when for both parties it’s preferably to cut to the chase.

Thank you Sofia, Jon, and Dan for your feedback on an early draft of this article.

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