What About Leading by Question?
People always stop what they’re doing to answer questions because they were raised to be polite and ignoring a question is considered rude. That is why even if you are in the middle of important conversation and someone interrupts you to ask what time it is, you feel compelled to answer. From the other side we want to answer questions to show that we are knowledgeable.
Questioning is an art and the good negotiator use it as a covert persuasion strategy; for instance:
- To break the counterpart preoccupation and get immediate attention
- To put the listener in receptive mood and enable him to use his own words
- To bypass distractions and control the conversation
- To reframe the communication and bring the listener back to interests and priorities
- To influence the counterpart and find root causes, decision criteria and deal-breakers.
Questions will have these positive effects if you follow the rules of asking them, here are five fundamental rules.
- Use leading questions whenever possible because these questions help you to guide the prospect in the right direction. Samples of leading questions aiming at taking the control of your target’s brain are namely: (what is most important to you in this kind of transaction? In what ways would this solution make your business operation easier?)
- People know what they don’t want. Your task as covert persuader is to help guide the exchange toward what they do want but may have trouble expressing. An excellent phrase to remember is: (I know you don’t know, but if you did know, what would it be?) A surprisingly high number of people will answer this question clearly.
- Perception is reality. The way you see the world might differ greatly from the counterpart’s view. Ask empathic questions that will enable you to understand his perspective. E.g. (I imagine it was a difficult situation, I also had a similar accident two years ago; how can I help you to move forward?)
- People do more to avoid pains than they do to gain pleasure. Show the prospect what he or she will lose if no action is taken and pave the way to compensate the lost, as in the following example. (Imagine that you keep smoking those cigarettes, and what you see soon is your kids and your grandkids coming to look at you in your casket, crying because they can’t speak with you anymore due to your slow suicide with tobacco…and if you cut half a pack of cigarettes each day this month and to a cigarette each day next month, and finally throw the pack away, wouldn’t it be something to see yourself healthy and happy, having fun playing with those grandkids?)
- We have two ears and one mouth. But amazingly most people don’t really listen; they wait to talk. This may be true of you as well. Convey interest and encourage the order person to talk more. And listen more than you talk. Use paraphrase questions for this purpose e.g. (Does that mean you have created your company two years ago only with €500? How did you manage to be so successful?)
Applying the abovementioned guidelines will help you to enhance your questioning proficiency in order to meet your persuasion ambitions while leading. The reward can be significant in terms of guidance and business relationship improvement.
Guy Alain Djopmo