Four Taboo Topics to NEVER Bring Up

I admit I was having a hard time topping last week’s post about roller derby. I knew it would get some attention, and I am very grateful to you all for the many Comments that it got.

So this week I decided to go in the totally opposite direction. If last week’s post was wild and crazy, this week’s will be much tamer. Because we are going to talk about your behavior when you are spending time talking with your clients and prospects.

I am referring to the kinds of conversations that turn personal, whether you are at a ballgame, having dinner, or meeting in their offices. There are just some subjects that should ALWAYS be taboo. Today we are talking about being appropriate. Boring!

Boring? Maybe. But this post also might just save you the pain of losing business because you don’t understand what roads you should not take. Here goes.

RELIGION—It’s personal. Stay away from it. Don’t tell a Catholic joke even if the client just told you he is a “recovering” cradle Catholic. This will not be the first time you’ve heard me say this, and it won’t be the last. Take the high road. Be respectful. AVOID.

POLITICS—Even if you feel that your conversation partner is right on the same page with you politically, you should avoid making polarizing statements about your beliefs or anyone else’s. This is especially true when you are in a group. Because while one person might feel that Donald Trump would make the best president ever, another person in the group may be horrified by such a statement, and could judge you on your reaction. So keep it neutral.

The same may go for what news broadcasts you watch, what you listen to on the radio, etc. A lot can be gleaned about a person based on those preferences, and you would never want a buying decision to be made based on anything other than on your professional merits and those of your company.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • http://JayGalt Jay Galt

    The old adage ‘Practice what you preach’ strikes me as appropriate advice to offer here. The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ comment was ‘cute’ and ‘clever’, but it hits directly in your last umbrella category.

    Regardless of the input of literary critics, there are individuals in the business world who have read and appreciate Ayn Rand’s work. Your comment unintentionally smacks of smug elitism if read incorrectly as such. It serves as an excellent teaching tool for your main point.

  • http://DanielDuthler Daniel Duthler

    Kelly, you are right on target. There is a quote from the bible that states Samson slew 1,000 men with a jawbone of an ass. Every day thousands of sales are lost with the very same tool. We live and learn.

  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Who is John Galt? Who is Jay Galt? his brother? I saw the movie Saturday and am a fan – I think I referring to the fact that revealing your preferences by saying that you are a fan might prejudice some people toward you. Sorry that it came off as elitist!

  • http://Jon Jon

    I love this post. And I believe that another facet of it to consider would be the fact that even if someone is fully on the same page with you and you discuss polarizing issues, if they are asked to refer a company, they may avoid referencing you because they are aware of how your views might clash with the potential client!

    Jay – I believe Kelly was citing a potentially biased issue, not stating her preference either way on that particular stance. I think it fit the example well and was nicely used. Many subjects have subtle opinions ingrained in them. That was her point. “Smug elitism” is a pretty bold statement to glean from such a positive and helpful piece.

  • http://RebeccaGriggs Rebecca Griggs

    Hi Kelly,

    I agree on all the ‘Four Taboo Topics’ never to bring up, and thank you for bringing this my attention. Delicate issues indeed, but necessary to to revisit.

    Thanks again,

  • http://Matt Matt

    Great post. I always try to be neutral when talking with clients. The best way to do this, as Kelly mentioned, is to ask them personal questions about what they did with their family, movies they saw, etc. It’s a great way to learn more about your client and stay off touchy subjects.

    In the same vein, how you act in front of clients is equally important. You would think this goes without saying, but when meeting with clients on a more personal level there are also things to avoid. Drinking too much, eating like a slob, checking out/ hitting on people are just a few.

  • http://Rebecca Rebecca

    Thanks for a great blog! Say no to those Taboos.

  • http://Brett Brett

    I totally agree. Even if you think you might be on exactly the same wavelength as your customer, talking politics still has the potential to end up getting kind of awkward if your shared beliefs don’t actually jive with what their company does.

    Sex and religion seem like no-brainers, but if you know someone long enough they just might come up. Seems best to stick with things that would be safe on a first date.

    ‘Jay Galt’ – You have to realize that a Randian accusing someone else of elitism is inherently completely hilarious.

  • http://Rocco Rocco

    “Samson slew 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass. Every day thousands of sales are lost with the very same tool.” No truer words were ever spoken.