10 Easy Questions to Get a Talkative Client to the Point!

Woman Talking with CoffeeI'm sure every one of us has had (or has!) a client who likes to tell stories and go into great detail about what happened to whom, when, where, how.

It could be the drama that attracts them. Perhaps they want to distract you (or themselves) from a difficult issue. They could also be a sequential thinker or a 'detail-oriented' person. There are plenty of reasons WHY some people just like to talk, but in this post we're going to look at specific things you can ASK or SAY to get them to the point - fast!

So, take a deep breath and say firmly, "I'm going to interrupt you here..." and then try:

  1. So, tell me what finally happens.
  2. In a nutshell, what's the issue/goal here?
  3. So, what would you like to handle first/now?
  4. Can you give me your goal/issue in one sentence?
  5. If you were to take a helicopter view, what do you need me to know?
  6. May we take a quick time out. How does this relate to the goal/issue you want to work on?
  7. So, how did that make you feel?  (great for the 'avoiders')
  8. I'm looking for the storyteller here and not the story - what are the key points that you need to tell me?
  9. If you could sum the situation up in one word or phrase, what would that be?
  10. Lastly, use ONLY with caution and good rapport: "Do you want to spend time talking about your problems or get things sorted?"

The Trick: You need to be firm and confident. By all means try a 'soft' interruption first, but if this doesn't work take a deep breath and - if necessary - cut right across them. With some clients this is the only thing that will work. Remember, they are paying you to help them move forwards.

Watch out for: Sometimes a story contains essential elements that the client needs to be coached around. Or perhaps your client needs to feel heard and have a safe place to 'vent' and explore how they feel. Or they may simply be a person who likes detail or to work through their thoughts sequentially. You'll need to use your coaching skills and trust your gut - which of course gets easier with practice and experience!

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