If you would like to impress, really impress, your prospects and clients, listen to them.

Never start a conversation with the click of a stop-watch: “I have 10 minutes and then I have to be at a meeting, how can I help you?” Bad. “I have to be in a meeting in 10 minutes but I wanted to return your call. If you need more time to explain your (insert correct term here), I would be happy to call you back after the meeting or tomorrow. Please don’t feel rushed.” Good.

I had a conversation today that really rattled me. I had a scheduled call with someone who does work for me—important and serious work—and the conversation started with “I have a plane to catch, where are we on this?”  I had a lot of information to give and I needed to discuss a very important issue. I couldn’t give the information and get my questions answered. I had to choose. Give him all the information and hope for a better conversation later or ask questions and provide the necessary information later.

Neither of those options really work. He’s either answering questions without all the facts, or gathering facts and leaving me in the dark. Our conversation lasted 3 minutes. I gave the information which I had supplied earlier by email. My questions were not answered. I still do not have a clear course of action to take on the matter at hand.

Doctors do this all the time. My matter is not medical, don’t worry. But it made me think about how doctors talk AT patients. They are always late, always in a hurry and always know more than the patient.

So to get the right diagnosis and subsequent treatment, should the patient spew information or ask questions?

100,000 people die every year in this country from medical error.

As the health care debate rages on, I think we need to remove the stop-watch. Doctors need to listen. Patients need to listen. Neither party hear very well in a rush.

100,000 people die. Die.

Maybe your business isn’t a life and death business. But I’ll bet a lot of frustration could be be avoided, fewer mistakes made and more sales closed if people would listen.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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