Many people tell me that they have trouble talking to others about their businesses. But many other people have the problem of not knowing when to stop. We’re probably all guilty of this now and then–I know I catch myself sometimes–but if it’s a habit it is costing you customers.
Telling too much can take several forms. You may go on and on about your business to the point where listeners get bored. The solution to that one is simple: sit down and shut up. Learn to watch your listeners for signs that they are losing interest. When you see those signs, make sure you switch the topic back to something they will find more interesting–them!
You may be so busy telling someone what your business can do for them that you don’t take the time to ask questions and listen to the customer talk about what they need. Doing so accomplishes two things: your customer feels valued because you took an interest in their needs and opinions, and you learn about what is worrying them so you can better solve their problems.
You may feel that you have to give customers minute details of how your product or service works. Every step of the process you use, the inner workings of your equipment and other details may be fascinating to you, but the customer cares less about HOW you are going to do something that what results you will get for them. Don’t be so in love with process that you forget WHY you are doing what you do. Focus on the WHY with your customers.
Last but certainly not least is what a friend of mine calls being “too honest.” It is not only unethical, it is stupid to lie to customers. You may make today’s sale, but you will ultimately lose the customer along with your reputation. But it can be just as harmful to tell too much truth–that is, truth that doesn’t matter to them but may turn them off.
Think of it this way: if someone asks you “How are you?” you don’t say, “Well, my spouse and I had a fight this morning over my drinking, and that really aggravated the ulcer I got over my upcoming trial for tax evasion. But at least my kid’s finally getting out of jail! And by the way, you are really ugly.” That might seem truthful, but it is not information that is relevant or useful to anyone else. And it will not leave a positive impression.
I see similar situations where business people tell customers all the reasons they shouldn’t buy what they are selling. If a customer asks if your product can do “x” and it can’t, tell them. If during the conversation you learn something about their needs that your product can’t do for them, let them know. That’s honest and helpful. But don’t just focus on all the deficiencies you can think of in your product. It gives a negative impression, and the things you see as deficiencies may not matter to the customer. So what if, “it only comes in blue”? That’s not a problem to me if I want a blue one. Leave out the “only.” Don’t give customers reasons not to buy from you by accentuating the negative. It’s not honest and it’s not virtuous, it’s just silly.
So, next time you hear yourself talking too much, stop. Take a deep breath, then say the magic words, “Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?”