If you want to truly engage a prospect or client, it is critical that you listen to them. The key with engagement is interaction. Most people are focused on themselves and are more than ready to talk about themselves and their products. But how do you get the other person to begin talking?

Great questions lead to great interaction and will allow you to be in control of the conversation while gaining all the benefits of listening and learning about the other person. But sometimes, the questions we ask just don’t work.

Asking questions effectively

If you ask the wrong questions, you’ll probably get the wrong answer, or at least not quite what you were hoping for. By using the right questions in a particular situation, you can improve a whole range of communications skills. You can gather better information and learn more, build stronger relationships, manage people more effectively, help others to learn and, most importantly, create lasting connections.

Big Questions

The key is to take a typical question you ask, but add a few extra words. By adding certain words, you create what we call a Big Question. A Big Question is one that requires an answer, opens up conversation and allows you to create the type of connection that only happens when you listen.  

Questions that are typically asked of a prospect, such as “How is your health?” often result in a bit of a lie. “Good, fine,” the prospect says, because he or she is not even sure they want to do business with you yet, much less engage by divulging this information. But, if they begin talking about things that are important to them and that we really need to know in order to put together a financial strategy, the results are positive. On average, a person will give you five answers to one question. While they are talking, you are connecting, developing a relationship and learning.

Big Questions use absolute words

  •  “What is your biggest health concern?”
  • “I know your business has received a lot of awards — which was the most meaningful to you?”
  •  “What’s your biggest challenge?”
  • Or, if you’re in a competitive situation, ask, “What is the one thing you wished your current advisor would do?”  This will usually give you everything you need to know.

The key is to ask a question that requires an answer. 

Consider evaluating the questions you ask and determine whether they could be better. It can make a significant difference! 

For more from Maribeth Kuzmeski, see:

Are you a master of delegation?

The more you talk, the less people … like you?

Why nobody reads your brochure or website