My latest haircut is a masterpiece. It would look this good if I cut it myself if I do say so.

The overall experience was positive. The haircutter did everything right as it relates to client conversation. They also did everything wrong as it relates to client conversations.

My visit began with a warm and friendly greeting. The consultation brought forth the specifics of my desired look. I departed on a high note, too. Take home hair care product was suggested and offered. I was instructed as to how to book my next appointment and I was thanked sincerely. The beginning and the ending were solid. The middle was where things went awry.

By the end of the experience I described above I knew way too much about this haircutter. The list of categories covered in the chairside monologue included, but were not limited to their personal life, their life partner, their finances, their health issues, their housing situation, their mortgage, and their family. I know about the part time job, the prior cities of residence, their taste in music, clothing and food. The list goes on. Notice, too I did not describe the interaction as a conversation. It was a monolog. I did a lot of listening. Fortunately when I take my glasses off I do not hear so well. I might have heard a lot more.

Client conversation is a skill. It is a skill we must work hard to learn. It is a skill we must practice and hone. Below I offer up my top five tips for building your guy client conversations skills so as to build business, not drive it away.

1. Read the newspaper. Yes. I know you get your news on the internet. Read the paper, too. Specifically, read the local paper that comes out once each week. Taking the few minutes needed to scan through the paper will have you up to date on the general idea of what all is going on in your town. The big local daily and the web will fill you in on the whole wide world. Conversations happen. You need not be an expert, but you should know about what the school board is fighting about even if you do not have kids in the district. Being up on local current events will allow you to comfortably join in on conversations or sit quietly and gain thoughts and ideas from different people and perspectives.

 2. Watch Sportscenter – Fifteen minutes of Sportscenter will not make you a superfan. It will make you capable of engaging with guys in a comfortable way. I am not a basketball fan, but I am roughly aware of what is generally going on in the world of basketball. I can say the same thing about hockey, football, soccer, NASCAR. I am a big baseball fan and have more than a rough idea about that. My point here is not to try to be an expert, just be aware. You should know when a major golf tournament is in progress. You should know what part of the world important tennis is taking place. Like it or not, guys dig sports (girls do, too) and sports conversations happen in the haircutting chair. Be able to at least know what the conversation is about. You need to know what game Lebron plays. You do not need to know his career stats. You need to know what happens at Churchill Downs, Martinsville and Agusta.

 3. Ask questions – This is a great way to get clients talking, to get the ball rolling. Your cosmetology or barber textbook said to avoid politics, religion and sex. That is still good advice. Start with hair conversation. Read the feedback from your client. If you ask questions and get one word answers the clients likely does not wish to talk. Take this as a signal to back off the conversation for a bit and see where the client takes it. If you ask a yes or no question and get six paragraphs, just listen, smile and nod. Let them do the talking. Feed them a bit more bait and line as needed. They will run with it.

 4. Listen – As stated above. Get them started and they will do the heavy lifting. One well asked question can have a client running on for an entire haircut. I was always surprised at how many stylists used to ask about quieter blow dryers for shop use. Many claimed they could not hear the clients speaking over the noise of the dryer in their hand. I would think that was a blessing. Just smile and nod. You will be amazed at how often a client who talks for the whole appointment tells you, his friends and himself just how much he adores you. He just spent the entire appointment talking about himself. He knows nothing about you, yet is a HUGE fan. Play this to your advantage.

 5. Bring it back to hair – When things go astray bring the discussion back to the haircut. Things can get awkward sometimes. A strong political opinion may offered up that you feel quite the opposite about. A client might share a wildly inappropriate joke or remark. Your job is to move the discussion elsewhere before it becomes more uncomfortable for you, other clients or co-workers. You will never go wrong talking about the client’s haircut. Talk about take-home hair care product. We can never really do too much of that. Talk about the next appointment. Rebooking is never a bad discussion to have.

 You will step on a conversational land mine from time to time. Even the most experienced stylist and capable conversationalist can still do that. These basic tips will set you on the right path.

Happy Clippering.

Ivan Zoot