Help, My Customer Isn’t Talking

My Customer Isn’t Talking

She just wouldn’t tell me anything. That customer just didn’t want to talk. How am I supposed to build value when they won’t have a conversation with me?  If you’ve ever heard a colleague say things like this or even said these things yourself you may be a victim of a conversation killer. But there is good news…

On today’s show discover:

  • … three different conversation killers that may be impacting your sales;
  • … what to do if your customer isn’t talking;
  • … the very best way to improve customer communication.

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Customer Conversation

It’s no secret that engaging your customer in conversation is an important part of the sales process. It keeps them interested and provides lot’s of useful information for you. But what do you do when they won’t open up? It sure does make the whole process harder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve coached a salesperson who told me, “that customer just didn’t want to talk.”

Sure there are people who really don’t say much, but most of the time if your customer isn’t talking it’s likely due to the way you’re communicating and it really comes down to three conversation killers:

  1. Lack of Trust
  2. The type of questions you’re asking
  3. Responses that don’t support or encourage conversation.

So let’s start with…


When a customer feels like you’re only interested in selling them something they won’t be comfortable enough to open up and really talk.

In Round 8 we talked about the importance of making a great first impression with your customer and how customers need to trust you in order to eventually purchase from you. Trust is something they also need to feel if they’re going to open up and have a conversation. When you have a customer that isn’t talking ask yourself if you’ve done a good job establishing rapport and trust.


If you have done a good job establishing rapport then the conversation killer might be the types of questions you’re asking. Your customer would open up but they aren’t talking because they’re responding appropriately to the questions you’re asking them.

For example:

  • Is this your first time visiting our store? “Yes”
  • Did you come in because of our sale? “No”
  • Oh, did you know we’re having a sale? “No”

Those are all close ended questions. They close the door on conversation because they require only a one word answer. Close ended questions aren’t bad, in fact they can be very useful, but if you’re trying to get your customer to open up and have a conversation they really don’t work well.

Helping Verbs, aren’t that Helpful in Sales

Do you remember the helping verbs? As a kid I was taught to memorize them. Here they are: Is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, has, have, had, do, did, does, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can and could. Why did I bring up helping verbs? Actually, it’s because if you want your customer to open up the helping verbs are not all that helpful.

When you start a question with one of the helping verbs it converts the question to a close ended one. (the only exceptions are be, being and been…)

Here are a few examples:

  • Is this your first time calling?
  • Am I speaking to Tom?
  • Are you aware of our special?

Those sound like good questions but since they each start with a helping verb (is am are) they’ll most likely kill the conversation and cause your customer to say things like:

  • Yup
  • Yes
  • No
  • and Nope

So how do you convert these close ended questions? Just rephrase them to start with Who, What, Where, Why, When  or How. Rephrasing close ended questions will encourage your customer to open up and have a conversation with you.
Example, here’s a classic, sales-y, closed ended question:
Salesperson: “Is this your first time calling?”

Customer: “Yes”

Now let’s rephrase it and ask it in a more open ended way.
Salesperson: “What prompted you to call us today?”

Customer: “Well, my friend Tom told me he bought some tennis shoes from you and the price was great. He’s told me a lot of good things about the store so I thought I’d call and see if you still had those shoes on sale.”

As you can see, an open ended question helps engage the customer so you get a lot more useful information! Just start your questions with one of the 5Ws or the H but be aware,  if you’re not careful those pesky helping verbs can sneak right back in at the end to kill the conversation. Here’s an example:
Salesperson: “How long have you been dealing with this back pain, has it been a long time?”

Customer: “No”

If you find helping verbs sneaking back in at the end just shorten up your question to “How long have you been dealing with this back pain?”

So converting close ended questions to open ended questions will help but what if you’re customer still isn’t talking? If the questions are good it’s time to look at your responses.

Supportive Responses

If you’re just firing questions at your customer with no supportive responses a conversation really isn’t taking place. It’s more like an interrogation.
Salesperson: “What prompted you to give us a call today?”

Customer: “I wanted to find out about some shoes my friend Tom bought here in the store?”

Salesperson: “Which shoes?”

Customer: “Some tennis shoes you had on sale?”

Salesperson: “What price were they?”

Customer: “Around $100.00?”

Salesperson: “What color did you want?”

Customer: “Green”
Even if the customer starts talking they can quickly close up because there’s really no conversation going on. This can also undermine the rapport and trust you worked so hard to establish at the beginning and might cost you the sale! When there’s no give and take, it feels like you’re getting the third degree. Not the way you want your customer to feel!

So let’s make it more of a conversation and add some supportive responses to encourage your customer to keep talking.

Salesperson: “What prompted you to give us a call today?”

Customer: “I wanted to find out about some shoes my friend Tom bought here in the store?”
Salesperson: “Ok, great! I’m sure I can help you with that. Which shoes did Tom purchase?”

Customer: “I’m not really sure but they were tennis shoes and you had them on sale.”
Salesperson: “Excellent, we have some great tennis shoes on sale right now.  Do you remember how much Tom paid for them?”

Customer: “He said they were somewhere around $100…”
Salesperson: “Perfect,  I think I know the shoes Tom got. They come in black, blue and green. What color would you prefer?

Customer: “Tom got a blue pair but I really like green best could I see those?”
Salesperson: “Absolutely, let me get those for you.”

Next time you hear yourself say “That customer just didn’t want to talk” reflect upon your communication. When you establish trust, phrase your questions in an open ended way and interject supportive responses your customers will be more likely to open up and have a meaningful and valuable conversation with you.

Today’s One Two Punch:

Improve Your Communication to Improve Your Customer’s Communication

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