What's the best word for that phrase? "talk" or "speak"?

"Know your customers' needs before they even talk."


"Know your customers' needs before they even speak."

The idea is to say "before they even talk to you", but there's no space for that.

  • How is that possible, anyhow?
    – Daniel
    Sep 16, 2011 at 13:44
  • 1
    Could be intuition, telepathy, sign language, etc.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Sep 16, 2011 at 13:59
  • 1
    What about the verb "anticipate" instead of "know"?
    – simchona
    Sep 16, 2011 at 20:14
  • "..get rid of the virus that we planted to read all of their financials"
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 19, 2011 at 15:29

6 Answers 6


I would prefer "speak", because "talk" usually has a direct or indirect object.

It doesn't strongly require one, so the "talk" option is possible; but for me "speak" would be more idiomatic.


'Speak'. 'Talk' implies reciprocity.

  • 2
    A little verbose there; you might want to shave it down a little ;)
    – Daniel
    Sep 16, 2011 at 19:21
  • I thought so too. Sep 16, 2011 at 19:46

"Know your customers' needs before they tell you" or "Know your customers' needs before they do" might be better as slogans.


Some restaurants know my order "as soon as I walk in the door."

Another way of putting it, is "before the customer opens his mouth."


You've mentioned in your question that the intended statement is "Know your customers' needs before they even talk to you". Here, your customers can refer to either:

a) People who haven't been talking at all, in which case, they aren't yet customers, but are valid prospects / likely customers


b) People who are existing customers & talk from time to time, presumably on a need-to basis.

In the former case - if they aren't yet customers- Know your customers' needs even before they turn into your customers is one way of saying it. ( No idea about your space constraint, you might have to edit elsewhere to make space or find another workaround to accommodate it if you the sound of this.)

In latter case - if they are existing customers- Know your customers' needs beforehand might do.


I'm on the side of the "speak" supporters, but for different reasons. Without the direct object, my brain parses "before they even talk" to mean that they will be rambling for a while. There is a hint of verb aspect here (though we don't really have it in the same sense that a lot of languages do): "before" sounds most natural when it comes before a very fixed instantaneous point in time. You can speak in a split second, but talking sounds much more drawn out.

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