How do you handle a customer who talks all the time?

Copyright MMX, by Dave Kahle

A: Your question reminds me of an ex-neighbor - the ultimate non-stop talker.  A single guy, he had adopted our family as his, and was in the habit of showing up for dinner at every holiday.

One year, he had Thanksgiving dinner at our house.  He and I were relaxing afterward in the living room.  He was droning on and on.  I’m sure you know about the after-Thanksgiving dinner drowses?  I nodded off in a short nap.  When I woke up, he was still talking.  He never slowed down, or even noticed, my ten minute nap.  Now that’s a talker.

It might be OK to nod off in the middle of your neighbor’s monologue, but it’s not a good idea on a sales call.  There is, however, an easy solution.  Politely interrupt with a question.  The question should direct the customer to the subject that you want to explore.  When you ask a question, you direct the customer’s thinking, interrupt his train of thought, and move him to think and then respond to your direction.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say your customer started in on last night’s football game, and has been going on for seven or eight minutes.  You’re beginning to get a little groggy, are having a hard time staying awake, and visions of lunch keep popping into your head.  In a moment of desperation, you interrupt:  “John, excuse me, can I ask how you’re doing with those green widgets you tried last month?”

John pauses, and then launches in on the widget evaluation. 

Notice that you were very polite.  Notice also that the question stopped his train of thought, and re-directed his thinking to an issue that you wanted to put into the conversation.  That’s how the best sales people do it.

This is just one application for the sales person’s most powerful tool:  a good question.  The incredible power in a question is that it directs the thinking of the person to whom the question is directed.  There is something in human beings that, when we are asked a question, we automatically think of the answer. 

Conversation proceeds from thought.  To stop or change the conversation, you have to interrupt or redirect the thoughts.  And, the most powerful tool to do that is a good question.

That’s just one thing that what makes a question such a powerful tool in the hands of a good sales person.  A good question has multiple other uses.

So, whenever you want to deal with a customer, or anyone, who is talking on and on, just politely interrupt with a question that directs the customer’s thinking to the area that you want to go. 

To learn more about how to yield the power of a good question, check out my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success.

Good luck.

Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit to check out a seminar near you.

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