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Ask, Dont Tell: Nine Ways Power Questions Help Us Build Better Business Relationships


Personal connection, likeability, and trustworthiness are back. They are the new litmus 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 the world seemed to be bursting with an infinite supply of business. All this bounty lulled 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. "The days 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. Asking creates 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 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 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. 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."

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 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. 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


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