From the May 2007 issue of Startups

Sometimes the most productive conversations happen when you shut your mouth and listen. Edward Rogoff, co-author of The Entrepreneurial Conversation management professor at The City University of New York's Baruch College reveals how conversations can build lasting business relationships.

Entrepreneur: What is your best tip that entrepreneurs can use in conversation?

Edward Rogoff: Focus on the needs of the other person. Research those needs [in advance], prepare for the conversation, ask questions and listen carefully for the answers. Adjust your thinking based on the answers. You need to fashion something that works for the other person. If it works for the other person and his or her business interests, then it can work for you. [Instead of talking about what your company is doing], talk about the needs of the other person.

In your book, you discuss how to seek out the "real issues." What does this mean? Why is it crucial?

Rogoff: Usually, the other party has a fundamental need. [Many entrepreneurs assume] that need is making money. But sometimes that party wants growth, higher margins or easier logistics. You have to identify the real issue, either by researching or asking questions. When you start addressing their real issue, they start paying a lot of attention to you.

How does entrepreneurial conversation create possibilities?

Rogoff: When you start talking about the other person's interests and real issues, the conversation becomes highly interactive. You get an exchange that becomes very creative--the person raises ideas and hears what's good [and] bad, what's worked and what hasn't, and what competitors are doing. [That] leads to a conversation that produces possibilities. When you find a mutually beneficial way of working together through that conversation, you create positive business relationships that are profitable for both parties and tend to last a long time.