12 Tips For Handling “Runaway” Talkers (Part II)

Here are 6 more tips on how to manage clients who talk…and talk…and talk.

Tip #7:  Politely Interrupt – Use their name

It’s not always easy but when the Runaway Talker really gets going sometimes the most effective way to interrupt is to use your client’s name.  Names are like beacons and often draw the attention of the speaker back to you rather than on their soliloquy.  Repeat their name slowly and gently in order to break their rhythm otherwise they won’t hear you.  For instance:

“Sarah … Sarah… Sarah… Before I forget  I need to ask you something important. The …”

Sarah will eventually pause when she hears her name. That’s when you interject the little trigger phrase “before I forget …” Then point out that it is important even if it’s not all that important.  It tends to draw their attention back to business.

Tip #8:  Use a Timer

Look, we all know that some clients (big, profitable clients) have probably earned the right to a twenty or thirty minute ‘fireside chat.’   Let them have that, but no more.  One way to keep an eye on things is to set a timer on your computer or watch or iPhone.  Decide that you’ll devote 25 minutes to this customer but at the 20 minute mark, start developing your call exit strategy.

All this really does is create discipline on your part. It forces you to take control otherwise the talker will keep you on the line another twenty minutes.

Tip #9: Acknowledge Their Time and Schedule

This is a nifty little technique whereby you acknowledge their busy schedule and use it as an excuse to terminate the call. When you sense a break or pause in the talker, remark,

“That’s good stuff…And Jim, I know you probably have a ton of things on your plate so I will let you go and give you a call next Thursday at 2:15.  I appreciate your time today.”

The first remark acknowledges the previous comments made by the client whatever they might have been.  Using “And” avoids the “but” (as in “but I’ve got to get going”) and allows you to interject with a comment on their busy schedule. Wrap up the call and terminate.”

Tip #10: Don’t Ask “is there anything else?”

While polite and courteous for most customers, it’s not a wise question for the runaway talker. There will ALWAYS be something else.  Don’t invite it.

Tip #11:  Establish a Pre-Text for Terminating

Here’s where planning kicks in.  Before your call, plan a meeting or a call with someone, anyone, and put it into your Outlook with an alarm.  When it goes off you have a ‘legitimate’ reason to terminate the call.

“Andrea…I’d love to chat some more but I have a call set for right now.  I have to run or I will miss it but we can catch up on the next call.”

Tip #12:  ‘Accidentally’ Drop the Receiver

As a last resort, accidentally drop the telephone receiver.  Again … use only when desperate and for those clients to go on and on despite your best attempts.  Dropping the phone does get their attention.  Apologize of course, but use the break to terminate the call.  Hopefully you don’t have to use this tactic often and only as a last measure, but it is effective.


Catering to long winded talkers can cost you time, money and opportunity. They put you behind on your tasks and objectives. They can cause you stress and frustration.  On the other hand, customers are customers.  Some are very good and very big customers.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to let them vent, chat or prattle on.  But when the time comes to terminate, try one or more of these techniques.

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