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Don't talk, just listen.

Why the best way to speak is to shut up!

"It's not accidental that we have one mouth and two ears."

Not that Peston or Heston or even Marr or Carr – the 'Chatty Man' - have ever noticed. That's because they're paid to talk. In business though the chatty bit is where it can all go wrong.

If you want to know what your customer or client needs and wants – you must say as little as possible. The secret? It's to make sure you listen to what it is they're talking about.

They're the experts

We're all far too eager to put over our points of view and opinions. To try and impress with our knowledge and understanding of their issues. But of course it's their business. They're the experts not us.

How would you react if someone started telling you how to run your company? Thought so!

So how do we get our clients to talk and reveal all? The answer - ask questions.

Google search

Questions are crucial. A good question will encourage your client to give you far more detail than a Google search ever could.

A follow up – even something like – “so what does that mean exactly?” – will offer everything you need to know to help you solve their problems.

And that’s what we all do whether we provide goods or services. We solve other people’s problems.

What questions should you ask? Well there are only 5 really. And these are they.

What? Why? When? Where and How?

Alright Kipling in his exceedingly good poem and wisdom highlighted 6. You remember?

“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.”

Open questions

It's up to you to craft the extra bits depending on the nature of your client's situation. But make sure your questions are tailored to encourage answers.

Closed or rhetorical questions are a waste of everyone's time. Open questions are what you should concentrate on.

These ask for thoughts and will elicit opinions and feelings. And most important of all they hand over control of the conversation to your client.

And, as in any chat, if the other party dominates proceedings they'll think you're a terrific conversationalist!

After defining your questions in advance your job now is to listen. Concentrating hard on the main points you're hearing. And adapting your questions to reflect these issues.

Listen closely

Don’t fall into the lazy trap of sticking to your questions without listening. So many chat show hosts and even journalists do it. And their interviews are all the poorer. With the audience screaming why didn’t she ask him about this? Or why didn’t he go for more detail about that? I’m sure you’ve done it yourself.

So if you want to be a good talker – listen closely to what your client is saying.

The late Bob Hoskins repeatedly used to tell us – “It’s good to talk.” You were right Bob. But it’s even better to listen.

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