We’re all wired to talk, especially entrepreneurs. Often founders can endlessly talk a blue streak, usually about themselves or their startup. Usually possessing this trait is beneficial, as the life of an entrepreneur revolves around hustling – selling our concept to investors, customers, partners, employees and vendors. But babbling on about your amazing startup or boasting about your accomplishments doesn't always score points.
Here are three times why you should shut your mouth.
You are meeting with a potential new client. Yogi Berra once said, “You can hear a lot just by listening,” a piece of advice entrepreneurs should remember. A big mistake entrepreneurs often make is talking at their clients instead of listening to them.
If you’ve got the meeting then chances are they already know enough about you to be interested. Don’t waste that important time together trying to pitch them on what you can do. Instead savor the opportunity to actively engage in listening to what they need.
You’re dealing with an angry client. No matter how good you or your product is, there is going to be times when angry clients complain. Don't make the mistake of retaliating. With the prevalence of social media outlets like Twitter and Yelp, information travels fast and nothing can be more damaging than a scathing review or tweet sent out in the heat of the moment from a customer.
So what’s the best way to take the lid of the pressure cooker during irate client situations? Just listen. The more you try to justify your perspective, policy or the situation, the angrier your client is going to become. Sure, you’re going to need to offer some solutions later down the road, but right now you need to let the situation diffuse. Understand your client is upset and needs to release some of that frustration. Begin by asking simple questions like, “Tell me what happened?” to demonstrate you’re actively taking their complaint to heart and processing the problem. They’ll remember later that you cared and you listened, which goes a long way for making long-term customers.
You’re interviewing someone. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make during the interview process is they don’t listen. You’ve got a great resume or portfolio from this person already screened. You’ve spoken on the phone and have a sense of what the potential hire is like already. So shut your mouth and let them do the talking.
I’m not saying sit there and don’t utter a word -- it’s an interview not an interrogation room. However, letting the potential new team member do most of the talking prompts some interesting discoveries for you. First, it allows you to gauge the level of interest and intention the person has in your business. For me, I like to work with vendors and hire employees who take the time to invest some effort ahead of the interview into learning about my business. That shows initiative and a proactive attitude, which are two qualities I like on my team.
Related: Listen and Learn When Making a Sale
Second, it allows you to get a sense of them beyond the resume. What do they talk like in person? How do they present themselves? Are you getting any gut reactions to them that make you uneasy?
Finally, what kind of questions are they asking you? Questions are indicative of interest and intellect. I like hearing people’s questions. Are they simple ones they could’ve answered themselves from a simple Google search about you? Or did they put some real thought behind making sure the fit is right on both sides? Listen to your instinct while allowing ample open time for talking. You’ll thank yourself down the road when you hire amazing people and lead a great team.
Related: Shut Up and Listen
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.