Guide to Client Service: Volume I, ConsultingChapter two

How to Manage a Talkative Client

Should you ever interrupt a client?

Many of us have probably found ourselves in the presence of long-winded clients. It can be challenging to identify when and how to interrupt them in order to keep the conversation moving along, especially when you’ve got limited time during scheduled meetings.

And then there’s the internal struggle of interruption coming off as rude vs. keeping the conversation moving. Especially when long-winded clients often end up offering much more information about their business, goals, challenges etc. without even being prompted during these times.

This delicate balance of being polite vs. getting stuff done can create an uneven canvas to work with. So, here are some pointers on how to identify when interruption could be okay (usually never by the way), along with questions to ask that will keep the conversation moving:

when to interrupt a client

  • Is there a natural pause coming up where I/we can pivot the conversation?
  • If yes, then wait. If no, see questions below to keep the conversation moving.

 

  • Is the rambling part of a story/example answering a previous topic or question?
  • If yes, then wait. If no, see questions below to keep the conversation moving.

 

  • Is the rambling negatively impacting the business and/or impeding on immediate progress
  • If yes, let them finish but follow up with probing questions to get at the root of the challenge they’re having. If no, then wait for a natural pause to move the conversation along.

 

Some questions to ask in an effort to move the conversation along:

  • So, please tell us what finally happens?
  • What would you say is the overarching or underlying theme of the issues, examples, challenges you’re describing?
  • Of everything you’re sharing, is there anything in particular that is a higher priority for us to focus on during this time?
  • Can you please summarize the issue/challenges you’re having in a few sentences?
  • May we take a quick timeout, please? We’re hoping to understand how this relates to the goal/issue you want to work on / that we’re meeting about.
  • So, how does that make you feel? This is a magical phrase btw. Try it out sometime when talking with clients and see what happens!
  • Sounds like this is very important to you. Would you like to focus on this topic now and we can reschedule time to cover other items, or we can revisit this once we get through the other items and if we don’t have enough time, we can always schedule a follow up.

 

If you do catch yourself in the heat of the moment, eager to contribute, and OOPS! you just talked over your client, don’t sweat it. It’s okay to pause, apologize for the interruption, and invite your client to please continue their thought. If your contribution was critical, simply write it down so you don’t forget to come back to it.