It’s About THEM: Listen to Your Clients


BeYB welcomes guest blogger, Dr. Carolyn Shadle!

I had the privilege of working with Carolyn at San Jose State University. She now writes, trains, and consults about workplace communication. 

Connect with Carolyn on LinkedIn.


Once you’ve uncovered what you believe in and chosen as your brand, the next step is to communicate your message.

That brings to mind all the whiz-bang tools of the Internet.  You can communicate with a You-tube video.  You can have a website, a Facebook page, a twitter account and a LinkedIn account.  The power of the Internet is incredible in getting your message out. Facebook consultants will tell you that you can convert your expertise into millions; put a picture on your Facebook page and watch the dollars role in.

But the “old fashioned” art of communicating interpersonally is also an important part of communicating your brand.  Eventually you hope to get beyond the website and email exchanges and talk to your clients.  How can you make the best of that first telephone conversation or, better yet, face-to-face meeting?


5 tips to make that first meeting a success

1. Make the conversation about the OTHER people, not you.  Of course they are anxious to know if you are who you claim to be and whether you really know all that you have reported on your Facebook page or blog.  But, if you let them do the talking, you will learn about them and what it is exactly that they need to know about you.  In the process, they will also learn that you are a good listener – something every client wants from their expert.

2. Share information about yourself and your expertise only in SMALL CHUNKS, and then check for perception, understanding, questions and reaction.  Remember that you are far more familiar with your area of expertise and what you have done than they are.  Don’t be a fast talker or deliver your information as through a fire hose. Share your information slowly, in small chunks, to be sure they understand.

3. Use open-ended questions to get your clients (or potential clients) to tell you about THEIR needs. Remember that YES/NO questions can end the conversation except for those who are driven to talk on. Questions like “Is your business growing?” or  “Are you looking for a consultant in xyz?” might end with a Yes or No.  Instead, ask questions that lead you to a greater understanding and let your clients choose what they’d like to discuss.  Try: “Tell me about your needs.”  “What prompted you to call me?”  “What is your vision for your business?”

4. Watch BODY LANGUAGE – yours and theirs.  Do you sense confusion, discomfort?  Is there a frown?  Are they backing away?  Do they appear disinterested?   And what about you?  Are you appearing overbearing or timid?  Are you leaning forward, insisting on your point, or are you relaxed, indicating willingness to listen.

5. Use REFLECTIVE LISTENING to demonstrate that you are listening and have, in fact, heard both facts and feelings.  “I sense a real concern about….”  “You must be quite worried about….”   “That appears to be a real fear for your company.”

In the end you want to be sure you have heard their story.  And that means listening! Tweet This!


About the author

Carolyn Shadle Drs Carolyn Shadle earned a Ph.D. in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She had the privilege of working with Peter Sterlacci at San Jose State University and is now a consultant with Interpersonal Communication Services in La Jolla, CA. She has co-authored Communication Case Studies and provided training in workplace communication for a variety of organizations.