Customers aren’t sitting around waiting to hear our sales pitches, watch our ads or study our brochures and websites. They would much rather think about their own narratives than think about ours. Successful, persuasive conversations are focused not on what the seller has to offer but on the customer’s issues.

To address this, practice Ditch the Pitch Habit #5, Focus the conversation on your customer. The subject matter of your customer conversations should be your customer, not you. As you become more fluid with this habit, you will not only keep customers more engaged, you will make it easier for your customers to see how your offerings directly connect to their most important issues. When this happens, it’s much more likely that you will be successful in persuading your customer.

Here are three practices to help you Focus the conversation on your customer.

Practice: Make 95% of your conversation about the customer

Here’s a number I keep in my head during persuasive conversations: 95%.

My goal is to ensure that 95% of my conversation with a customer is about the customer. I leave myself a very small ration of time allotted to talking about what I am selling, and I must use that 5% wisely. While my customer and I might both speak an equal amount, I focus on making sure that 95% of the content of our conversation is about him. Anytime the topic of conversation focuses on my company, my products or my services, I know that I need to bring the focus back to the customer as quickly as possible.

You may be wondering, “So if 95% of the subject matter of the conversation is about my customer, how do I communicate what I have to offer?” Keep reading.

Practice: Obey the one-paragraph rule

We have a lot to tell our customers, and it’s tempting to slip into a monologue when selling or persuading. To avoid this temptation, and to keep the conversation focused on your customer, obey the One-Paragraph Rule.

It’s simple: Never speak more than one paragraph’s worth of information without leaving a break. During that break, your customer may speak, or she may give a cue that shows she is either very engaged or disengaged, in agreement or not in agreement, etc. In all cases, this break prevents you from shifting the content of the conversation away from what your customer cares about.

Practice: Weave your stories together

Here’s the answer to how you communicate what you have to offer while focusing the conversation on your customer: weave your stories together.

As you are making sure that 95% of the conversation is about your customer, and obeying the one-paragraph rule, you will inevitably identify areas where your offerings meet your customer’s needs. When this happens, take a small thread of your story and gently weave it into your customer’s story.

This is much more effective than listing your offerings as a series of bullet points in a sales presentation. When you weave a thread of your story into your customer’s story, your customer will see the direct relationship between what you offer and what she needs. On the contrary, if the same offering is presented to the customer out of context, it’s up to her to do the work of figuring out what your offering means to her.

Like all Ditch the Pitch Habits, Focusing the conversation on your customer requires time and practice. Use these practices in your upcoming conversations, and notice how your interactions with customers change as you further develop this habit. Have the discipline to Focus the conversation on your customer, and you will see that your ability to persuade improves, and that your customers enjoy talking with you more.



  • Dan Caramanico
    Aug 20, 2013 - 08:29 am

    Great post. Far too many salespeople for me-centered. They spend far too much time talking about their value proposition.Value is measured by the prospect only in terms how it solves their pain.we can know their pain unless we focus on them.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Aug 21, 2013 - 01:14 am

    Thanks for the thoughts Dan.

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