A few weeks ago, I got an angry call from my friend. He was ranting about how he’d wasted 10 hours with this realtor who kept showing him houses that he didn’t like or were outside his price range. After he was done, I asked a simple question:
“Why didn’t you just TELL him the specific things you are looking for?”
His response: Oh! Well, I didn’t want to come off as abrupt. He’d feel embarrassed that he’d been wasting my time.
Seriously? Now, I’m all for respecting people’s feelings, and I definitely think you should be as tactful as possible. But I am amazed at how often something like this happens – people are afraid to get to the point, to ask for exactly what they want, and in the process end up wasting a ton of time and effort.
Getting to the point is especially important when your money is at stake. People who charge by the hour (lawyers, financial consultants, fitness trainers, college counselors…you name it), have an incentive to keep you there as long as possible. Don’t let them drain your wallet! Be clear about exactly what you want and establish upfront how long it will take to get it.
Here are a few tips to help you get to the point sooner:
Set concrete goals ahead of time
Figure out exactly what you want to find out and what you want the other person to know. Establishing these metrics in advance will keep both parties on track. Otherwise, you risk wasting time going in circles.
Impose a time limit.
Meetings and phone calls can go on forever if there aren’t some controls. By keeping things short you force people to focus on the issues that really matter.
One of my former bosses took this technique to a new level: he segmented his clients into different “tiers,” based on profitability, and imposed different time limits for each group. For example, he’d have no time limit for phone calls with top-tier clients, but would limit lower-tier clients to a five minute maximum. This helped him establish priorities and manage his time more effectively.
Don’t be afraid to express where you stand on certain issues. It might come across somewhat direct, but overall the long run it’s good for everyone involved. It helps to spin it in a way that emphasizes your honesty: “Just to preface any discussion, I want to be upfront about these things….”
Did you ever have a situation where you wish you’d gotten to the point sooner? How did you end up resolving it?