If you want to truly engage a prospect or client, it’s actually much more effective to listen than to talk. The key to engagement is interaction. The vast majority of salespeople are more than ready to talk about their products. But how do you get your prospect to talk?

Great questions lead to great interaction. They allow you to be in control of the conversation while gaining all the insight you need about your prospect. Sometimes, however, the questions we ask just don’t deliver the kind of information we need.

If you ask the wrong question, you’ll probably get the wrong answer (or at least not the answer you were hoping for). By using the right questions, you can gather better information and build stronger, more trusting relationships. The right questions allow others to learn while helping you build lasting connections.

The key is to take a question you may typically ask a prospect and add a few extra words. By adding certain words (such as “one,” “biggest,” “favorite,” “best”) you create what we call a big question. For example, “How’s your health?” may result in a bit of a lie. “Good, fine” the prospect may say, because he’s not sure he wants to do business with you yet, much less divulge this kind of information.

So, to get prospects talking, here are some examples of big questions:

* “What is your biggest health concern?”

* “I know your business has received a lot of awards. Which one was the most meaningful to you?”

* “What’s your biggest challenge?”

* “What’s the one thing you wish your current advisor would do differently?”

The key is to ask a question, whether big or small, that requires an answer. That way you can demonstrate your listening skills and begin building the type of relationship that can lead to a sale.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.