Ask, Dont Tell: Nine Ways Power Questions Help Us Build Better Business Relationships
4/5/2012 10:10:00 PM
Personal connection, likeability, and trustworthiness are back. They are the newlitmus test for doing business. Author and consultant Andrew Sobel says we create these qualities not by knowing the right answers, but by knowing the right questions.
Just a few years ago, globalization was in full swing, and theworld seemed to be bursting with an infinite supply of business. All this bountylulled us into taking our customers for granted, maintains Andrew Sobeluntil the economy tanked and shattered the illusion of endless prosperity. Suddenly, the old-fashioned "trusted relationship" started to look good again.
"In this post-Madoff era of unpredictability and suspicion, people are looking for deeper, more intimate, and more engaged relationshipsthe kind that reduce risk," says Sobel, author (along with coauthor, Jerold Panas) of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others.
"This is true of customers but also vendors, employees, and other business partners," he adds. "Thedays of getting in, making money, and moving on to the next guy are over. When times are tough and the future is uncertain, people want to put down roots and partner with people they truly like and trust."
Bottom line: In today's markets, the most valuable commodity is the ability to connect with others and rapidly build trust. And that begins by asking the right questions.
"Asking questions and letting people come up with their own answers is far more effective than spouting facts or trying to talk someone into something," Sobel explains. "Telling creates resistance. Askingcreates relationships."
In his book Sobel explores dozens of questions that light fires under people, challenge their assumptions, help them see problems in productive new ways, and inspire them to bare their souls (which, of course, strengthen the bonds in the relationship).
Nine Ways Questions Can Transform Professional and Personal Relationships:
Questions turnone-dimensional, arms-length business relationships into personal relationships that endure for years. "When a relationship is all business and there is no real personal connection, it lacks heart and soul," says Sobel. "And therefore you are a commoditya kind of fungible expert-for-hire. A clientor your bosscan trade you out for a new model with no remorse or emotion. But when you've connected personally, the situation is transformed because clients stick with people they like. Bosseshold on to team members they feel passionately about. Your expertise and competence get you in the door, but it's the personal connection that thenbuilds deep loyalty."
ONE: Questions turn one-dimensional, arms-length business relationships into personal relationships that endure for years. "When a relationship is all business and there is no real personal connection, it lacks heart and soul," says Sobel. "And therefore youare a commoditya kind of fungible expert-for-hire. A clientor yourbosscan trade you out for a new model with no remorse or emotion. But when you've connected personally, the situation is transformed because clients stick with people they like. Bosses hold on to team members they feel passionately about. Your expertise and competence get you in the door, but it's the personal connection that then builds deep loyalty."
Sobel tells the story of a senior partner in a top consulting firm who had to meet with the CEO of a major client. Other consultants were nipping at their heels toget more business from this company. This powerful, confident CEO, who was in his 60s and near retirement, had seen hundreds of consulting reports. At the endof a routine briefing, the senior partner paused and asked the CEO, "Before we break up, can I ask you a question?" The CEO nodded. The partner said, "You've had an extraordinary career. You have accomplished so much, starting at the very first rung of the ladder, on the manufacturing floor. As you look aheadis there something else you'dlike to accomplish? Is there a dream you've yet to fulfill?"
The CEO was nearly stunned. He thought for a moment and replied, "No one has ever asked me that question. No one." And then he began talking about a deeply held dream he had for his retirement. That question was the turning pointin building a long-term, deeply personal relationship with an influential business leader.
TWO: They make the conversation about the other personnot about them. Most of us don't care what other people thinkwe want to know first if they care about us. The need to be heard isone of the most powerful motivating forces in human nature. That's why oneof Sobel's power questions is, What do you think? Another is, Can you tellme more?
"There's an anecdote I love about a woman who has dinner, in the same month, with two great rival British statesmen of the 19th century, Gladstone and Disraeli," says Sobel. "When asked to compare the two men she says, âAfter my dinner with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in the world.' And then she adds, âAfter my dinner
1 -2- -3-