Lead and Respond with Questions–Here’s Why and How

In order to be successful in your communications you must first understand your team members, as that is one of their universal needs–to be understood. We do this by askingquestions and active listening. Better listening = deeper understanding. Only after this point can we communicate our position and get their buy in to corporate goals.

As you proceed to ask questions, you can also expect team players to be asking you questions, and this is territory where you can lose commitment you have just gained. You lose commitment by answering the questions, and risk even more if you get into a lot of details. Continue to build commitment instead, with these internationally proven techniques to lead and respond with questions.

Respect, repeat, and reverse

When you are asked a question first take the time to respect the question. That is done by giving the person you are communicating with a compliment–something along the lines of “That is a great question, John.” Then, you need to repeat the question and reverse it back to the prospective buyer, by asking “Would that be important to you and why?” or something similar. When you respond to questions with questions you gain additional information, clarity, and more commitment.

Reversing helps you in several ways. It keeps the team member talking, allowing you to gather more information that can lead to more questions. Reversing also shifts the focus from you to the other person, where it belongs. Questions show you are interested in them and their point of view; it makes them feel important and understood, they build rapport, and support your credibility.

Giving brief answers

Another way of gaining commitment when asked a question is to again respect the question by complimenting the person you are communicating with and providing a brief answer, but to end with a question back to them. If you don’t, you are giving the other person another chance to question you and you will eventually lose their sense of commitment. Remember it is about them, not you.

A word of caution–should you be asked the same question twice, answer it; don’t antagonize anyone. Then ask another question and move on. It is rare for a person to ask the same question twice.

Digging deeper

There is another important rule you need to know—the Rule of 3+. This rule is very simple; question the answer, question the answer, then question the answer again.

The best way to keep team members talking, while getting to the real problem, is by asking questions, listening to the answer, and questioning that answer. The more you do this, the closer you will get to the real issue, while helping the team discover the need for themselves.

When you ask a question, you are not always listening to the answer, as you may be too busy thinking of the next question to ask. Stop doing that.  Listen to the answer and question the answer. Don’t get derailed by thinking of another question and moving away from the opportunity of going deeper.

Remember to always question the answers three to five levels deep to get more clarity, information, and the truth. Don’t ever accept the first answer to a question, as it is rarely the truth.

For example, if I asked you a question, “Why do you go to work?” you probably answered, “To make money.” Now, question the answer, “Make money to do what?” and question that answer, listen to the answer, question that answer, listen to the answer, and you will soon discover why you really go to work. You will realize that you go to work for your personal reasons—by working you are taking steps towards the realization of a personal dream. Realize that and you will be more motivated in going to work.

Improving clarity by asking additional questions

Team members will sometimes give you vague answers. If you are not sure what they mean, question them. You will always improve clarity by asking more questions. Quite often I hear answers such as “maybe,” “leave it with me,” or “I’ll think it over and get back to you.” I always question these answers because they are not clear to me.

Additional tips for questioning

Ask questions that will help you gather the types of information you need:

  • Use open-ended questions when you want people to open up and talk.
  • Use close-ended questions when you need to focus the conversation or reach conclusions.
  • Use directing questions when you need a specific answer or need to move the conversation in a specific direction.

Use a deliberate sequence of questioning that will take you and your team where you need to go:

  • Determine what information you need.
  • Use a mix of open, closed, and directing questions that will gather that information you need and keep the discussion on track.
  • Constantly evaluate whether you are getting the information you need—and if not, adjust your line of questioning accordingly.
  • Don’t assume that people will always “open up” with open questions, or “focus in” with closed questions. Be ready to rephrase questions or adjust your approach if you are not getting the answers you need, or if you are not moving the discussion in the direction it needs to go.
  • Be sure that you don’t give anyone the impression that they are being “grilled.”

Listen to the answers to your questions:

  • Listen 70 percent of the time, and ask questions for the other 30 percent of the time.
  • Focus on what the team member is saying; don’t focus on thinking about your next question.
  • Always question the answers for more detail; it is when you question the answer three or four levels down that you get to the root of the problem.

This subject is covered under preparing to lead a team effectiveness meeting in my latest book,Motivate Your Team in 30 Days.  Get your free 20-page excerpt .

Bob Urichuck is an internationally sought after speaker, trainer—founder of the “Buyer Focused” Velocity Selling System—and best-selling author in six languages. His latest books, Velocity Selling: How to Attract, Engage and Empower Buyers to Buy, and Motivate Your Team in 30 Days are new in 2014.

Sales Velocity. Your Bottom Line. Our Passion

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