I met a top salesman who drove a $2.4 M W2. Of course, I asked him how. He wasn’t a natural at sales, he admitted. In truth, his success stemmed from an insight he gleaned a few years back.

After observing an unnecessary power play between two colleagues striving to prove their own value rather than establishing equal footing in their dialogue, he realized this domination dynamic blocked both from getting what they wanted. Neither could win. This incident inspired him to coin the term “Conversational Equity,” a mantra that provoked him to reevaluate his own relationships. From then on, he steered away from power-play conversations. It wasn’t easy, he shared, but this new mindset rewarded him in not only his professional accomplishments, but in his relationships across the board.

This particular shift in thinking goes against the longstanding programming of our reptilian brains. To win, we vainly take charge of these conversations, fighting for our goals (and egos) at any cost. In this mode, our game plans neglect to consider others’ needs, driving us to make the following missteps:

  • Predetermining who will play which role in the conversation
  • Assuming what the other person needs before asking
  • Defaulting to autopilot rather than reading the mood
  • Scattering efforts widely rather than considering where to add value specifically

While these approaches work sometimes, domination dynamics derail more interactions than they enhance. More predictable successes, ultimately, come from mutual respect… or a shared sense of equity. In instances of conversational equity, people are less likely to dead-end collaborations with ill-advised defensive power plays.

How does one create conversational equity? Here’s what the expert suggested:

1)     Consider how you can actually add value to a conversation

2)     Create a 90-second pitch, outlining a purpose for the conversation and what you bring to the table

3)     Reject all assumptions about the conversational partner

4)     Listen deeply to the other person, reflecting on the value they add to the mix

5)     Let the recipient validate your approach, reset their conversational expectations, or exit

After of the first 90 seconds, he elaborated, the calls have gone generally unstructured­, allowing the conversations to advance in directions he didn’t necessarily predict. This tactic might not suit everyone–especially newbies not yet familiar with what they represent. On the contrary, it requires someone fluent in their field, daring enough to release their grips on these conversations.

“It’s not a conventionally talked about headspace in which to conduct sales or business,” he told me, “but removing the need for power and control has allowed for deeper and more successful interactions with all of my conversational partners.”

Have you noticed differences when you’ve operated from a similar headspace? Comment below to share your own anecdotes regarding creating equity versus operating the sales game from a power differential. I’d love to hear what you think.

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