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 persuade your prospect to talk?

When getting prospects to open up, it’s helpful to employ different types of questions. Here are two:

1.    Heart questions. It may not be what we say that affects our prospects in a personal way but rather how we respond to what they say. If we can get to the core of an issue and hear our prospect express pain or joy, we will have made a significant connection. If we listen and show we care about her situation without speaking, we will be perceived more positively. And in order to do this, we must pose questions that get to the “heart” of what matters most to her.

Examples of powerful “heart questions” are:

    • “What has surprised you most about being a grandparent?”
    • “What were the biggest challenges you had to starting this career or business?”
    • “What keeps you awake at night?”
    • “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
    • “Who are you responsible for?”

Almost everyone who answers questions like these will experience some kind of emotional response. If you ask these types of questions and are authentically concerned with the answers, you will forge a connection that will not easily be forgotten.

2.    Funnel questions. The funnel technique involves starting with a general question and then asking for a more and more detailed response. It’s often used by detectives when taking witness statements. It is a strategy for getting more deeply involved in a conversation with a person by finding out as much as you can.

Funnel questions are good for finding out more detail about a specific point and gaining the attention and confidence of the person with whom you’re speaking. Asking “tell me more” follow-up questions will focus your prospect on a particular area, so you can glean more information.

Evaluate the questions you ask to determine how they might be improved. A small adjustment in the wording of your questions can make a significant difference in the answers you receive.

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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.