5 Topics of Conversation Salespeople Should Avoid – Holidays Edition

Today guest post comes courtesy of Jenny Poore of Sales Engine.

At this point, we should all know that talking about religion or politics at a dinner party, with certain family members, or with a client, should be avoided at all costs. Just because we have certain beliefs and opinions does not mean we need to run around telling everyone about them, after all.

If you’re willing to censor yourself with your family, you should be especially willing as a salesperson to do the same with your customers and prospects. And because we’re in the midst of the holiday season, let’s run through a list of topics all salespeople should avoid.


1. The large contract you just signed with another customer.

It’s great that you signed a large contract. You probably worked really hard to close this deal and you deserve to celebrate. But celebrate with your friends and coworkers, ok?

By disclosing details of this “big kahuna contract”, you risk looking like a sleazy salesperson and making the other customer feel like you are trying to increase the scope of their own contract with your company, even if that’s unnecessary.

Exception: If you genuinely believe that this customer will benefit by increasing the scope of the contract, then you may want to tell a success story of a client that did the same in the past and profited because of the change. Be brief, include only the important details, and move on. Share this story and allow it to speak for itself.

2. The gifts you’ve been given by other customers.

Depending on the kind of work you’re doing and the type of clients you serve, you may receive some pretty cool gifts during the holiday season. And again, that’s good! It likely means that you’ve delighted the client and they want to show their appreciation for your hard work.

But again, this is something you should keep to yourself. Before you go spewing the features and functions of some cool gadget that Client A gave you to Client B, consider how Client B will feel. Regardless of whether or not it’s deliberate, you risk making Client B feel like you are asking outright for a gift. (And that has “sleazy salesperson” written all over it.)

Exception: There is no exception to this rule. Just don’t do it.

3. How much you drank at last year’s holiday party.

Ok, this one should seem so obvious that it shouldn’t even be on this list. The holidays may be a good time to let loose with friends and family, but let’s leave it at that okay? These stories may be pretty entertaining in a close circle because these people will love you no matter what happens, especially family.

Client X doesn’t want to hear about how strong the eggnog was or that you regretted every sip of it the next day. (And they certainly won’t love you no matter what happens or what you say.) By revealing the debauchery that you participated in, you’re communicating that you don’t take your work seriously and you do not have boundaries. Client X wants to know that you are trustworthy and respectable.

Exception: You’re exchanging cocktail recipes with Client X. Hey, that eggnog might have been delicious and maybe you took the time to ask the host how to make it! By all means, share that with inquiring minds. But leave it at that and avoid disclosing the details of your personal behavior outside of work.

4. The new sales pitch you’ve been meaning to try.

Let’s say you are at a holiday party with a client. If that’s the case, you have probably gotten to know them a bit. Again, that’s a great sign. They’ve welcomed you to the party because they value the working relationship. So don’t start spewing the new sales pitch that you’ve been meaning to try. Be gracious, enjoy yourself, and avoid trying to sell them in a party setting.

Exception: Did you have a great conversation with Client X at the party last week? Did it spark an idea for your work together in the future? Then by all means, send them a quick thank you note for inviting you to the party and include an invitation to connect on your new idea. Just let them enjoy the party first and let the thank you note serve as an invitation for your next meeting.

5. Yourself.

Do you really want to be that guy or gal at the party?

Avoid talking about yourself and, instead, ask questions of others. You’ll spark more interesting conversation and others won’t leave the party labeling you as the ‘guy/gal that talked about him/herself the whole darn time’. Go to the party with the goal to have as many meaningful conversations with interesting people as you possibly can. Avoid babbling and start a new conversation with someone you don’t know.

Exception: Of course, if someone asks a question of you, by all means, answer it! Talking about yourself is part of the conversation equation, but don’t let it come at the expense of dominating every conversation you have. If someone is genuinely interested in hearing about your kids or your next vacation or where you grew up, by all means tell them about it! But don’t take the opportunity of silence as your opportunity to dominate the conversation. Conversation should be a give and take.

The holiday season is a great time to connect with valuable clients and potential prospects. Just be sure to avoid these five conversation topics and you should be good to go. Cheers!

Jenny Poore is the Director of Sales at Sales Engine, a company that helps firms build and tune their sales engine. She spends a lot of her time reading books, drinking coffee, and training for her next marathon. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.