Photo credit: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2664">Stuart Miles</a>

Are you asking the right “power” questions when talking with clients and prospects? According to a new book, the questions you ask directly relate to the success you find in the field.

Authors Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas wrote the book, “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others,” and say that after years of bigger is better, now we have to regroup and really connect with clients and build that “trusted relationship” again.

“In this post-Madoff era of unpredictability and suspicion, people are looking for deeper, more intimate and more engaged relationships—the kind that reduce risks,” says Sobel. “This is true of customers but also vendors, employees and other business partners.

“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,” adds Sobel.

For Sobel and Panas, the real key to gaining trust begins with great questions. Sobel says: “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. Telling creates resistance. Asking creates relationships.”

You can check out their book for the whole story, but to whet your appetite, here are nine key ways the authors say questions can transform professional and personal relationships:

  1. Power 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.
  2. Power Questions make the conversation about the other person—not about them.
  3. Power Questions cut through the “blah, blah, blah” and create more authentic conversations.
  4. Power Questions help people clarify their thinking and “get out of the cave.”
  5. They help you zero in on what matters most to the other person.
  6. They help others tap into their essential passion for their work. As Sobel states: “One of the highest-impact power questions you can ask is, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ It grabs people by the heart and motivates them.”
  7. They inspire people to work at a higher level. The late Steve Jobs was notorious for pushing employees. He asked people constantly, Is this the best you can do? “Often, we settle for mediocrity when we need to do our best,” says Sobel. “Mediocrity is the enemy of greatness. Asking, Is this the best you can do?, helps others achieve great things they did not believe possible.”
  8. They can save you from making a fool of yourself.
  9. They can salvage a disastrous conversation.