I learned a long time ago the value of asking great questions. Asking great questions isn’t only about getting answers. Sometimes you ask questions just to get people to think for themselves. When you ask great questions they stimulate thinking because most people feel compelled to answer questions.
A Powerful Example
I’ll never forget what took place when a sales trainer came into a room with about 40 attendees right after lunch. Before he got started with his afternoon presentation he asked, “Does anyone know a good place to go for dinner in Columbus?”
Suddenly people were shouting out restaurant names and many others raised their hands. After a few moments he said, “Stop. I know exactly where I’m going for dinner. I asked a question to prove a point. People feel compelled to answer questions. Look at how many of you were shouting out answers or raising your hands. And for those who didn’t say something or raise your hand, were you thinking of a place?”
Suddenly the more reserved people were smiling because they too were thinking of restaurants. Point made. Almost everyone feels compelled to answer questions, either out loud or in their head.
Doubt Versus Belief
Author and sales trainer Tom Hopkins tells readers and audiences, “When you say it, they doubt it. When they say it, they believe it!”
There’s something about verbally stating an answer that makes people believe it even more. It’s the power of the principle of consistency. That’s where you feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what you say and do. I boil it down to “word and deed.” We feel better about ourselves and look better to others when our words and deeds match.
The Great Question
During my corporate life one of my big responsibilities was managing a bonus plan for my prior company. I did lots of training on the plan for our field salespeople but it was complicated so I still got lots of questions.
I usually spent a good bit of time researching to gather information before answering their questions. At the very end of my email response, on a line all by itself, I would ask one of the following questions:
- Does that answer your question?
- Was that what you were looking for?
- Does that give you everything you need?
The responses I received were usually along these lines:
- That’s above and beyond. Thank you!
- Thank you so much! That’s more than I expected.
- Wow, I appreciate that. Yes, it answers all my questions.
Whichever variation of the question I used, asking was primarily for confirmation. I wanted to avoid miscommunication and make sure the person got everything they needed. It worked!
Another benefit I quickly realized was the question was also building my personal brand. When people came back with enthusiastic responses that indicated I went above and beyond what they’d expected they thought more highly of me. The more highly they thought, the more they relied on me.
This taps into the principle of authority. This principle of influence says we listen to people more when they believe they are an expert. Asking for the confirmation can be a reminder of your expertise when you do your job well.
To Do This Week
When you’re asked for help and you’ve done your job, take a moment to ask a question that confirms you’ve met or exceeded expectations. Doing so will avoid miscommunication AND build your personal brand at the same time. Both will make you a more influential person.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach, consultant, and author, he’s one of only 20 people in the worldpersonally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – went live this summer. It’s been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling since launching.
Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courseshave been viewed by more than 75,000 people! His latest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com.