How to Talk to Potential Clients (and dating advice too!)

Talking to potential clients can often feel like a first date. You’re interested in this person, would like to see them again and hope it works out for the long haul. But it can also make you feel shy and afraid of talking too much or too little. You have this one opportunity to make a solid connection and understand what this person really needs (and what they’d potentially buy from you.)

So the next time you have the opportunity to chat with a potential client (or go out on a date)—remember this golden rule.

Ask open-ended questions.
First things first, what’s an open-ended question? Simply put it’s a question where the response can not be yes or no.

In coach training they are called empowering questions and they are designed to get people to really think, get to the core of their issue and start talking.

A few examples include:

  • What’s really bothering you about that?

  • How have you tried to fix this problem?

  • What could you try differently?


In this article, Hubspot gives some excellent examples of what they call “high-value questions”.

Why do open-ended questions work?
Well, people are busy, they’ve got so much in their minds that whenever possible they’ll give you the short, quick answer. But when you ask them a thoughtful, open-ended question, it pushes them to think and articulate an answer.

Now after they give you the gift of what they’re really thinking you need to do three things:

1. Give them the respect of actively listening. This is where you are truly focused on the words that are coming out of their mouth. You are not thinking about what you are going to say next or even worse if you should have let the dog out before you left the house.

2. Reflect back that you’ve been listening. Saying something like, “Wow — that’s huge! — you’ve accomplished your goal of running a marathon — but now you have chronic ankle pain.”

Then go deeper, “What kinds of things have you tried to relieve your ankle pain?”

3. Take notes! No — don’t whip out a notepad like an investigative reporter or secretly record them on your iPhone. But if you’ve been listening carefully, you’ll be able to jot down what they’ve told you as soon as you have an appropriate minute to do so.

So the next time you’re talking a potential client (or date!) take open-ended questions along for the ride. Post in the comments to tell me what you’ve asked!

Marissa Bishop2 Comments