How To Use Questions To Get What You Want

QuestionsQuestions
Questions are the lifeblood of every conversation.  Whilst Active Listening is a great skill to have, without someone asking questions there are no answers to which you can listen!

The mind is a very logical instrument and tries very hard to predict the next question and therefore “opens files” in anticipation.  If the answer to the next question lies in one of these “files”, the question will be answered accurately and with detail.  If not, the other person will find the conversation hard going and will not be able to give good answers to your questions. This means that first you must approach the topic with the person and when his mind is on the topic, then ask a question specific to it. You will find this much more rewarding with the answers you receive.

Structure is very important if your questions are going to yield the answers you want.  Consider for a moment a filing cabinet.  To get to a file you must first open a drawer then select a folder and finally select one file from many in that folder.  If you had started out by opening a drawer at random and selecting the first folder you saw, would you find the information you were seeking?  Unlikely.

Types of Questions
Most people will identify with two types of questions.  Open questions are where the respondent needs to give an answer that is more than a simple yes or no or monosyllabic reply.  Good examples may be:

How do you feel about nuclear disarmament?
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Why would you climb that mountain?

And so on … You should note that these questions begin with How, What and Why.  These words typically invite the respondent to talk at length and are great for opening up a conversation (hence “open” questions).

The other form of questions are closed questions and these result in a factual and short response.  Good examples are:

How much is that?
What day do you want to meet?
When do you want to go ahead?
Do you want to buy this?
Would you like this delivered?

You will see that all of these questions can be answered with a one word reply that will close the discussion.  Most questions that start with How Much, What, When, Do or Would will be closed questions.  They do not offer the respondent the opportunity to talk at length.
In most sales training, you are told that open questions are good and closed questions are bad.  This is wrong!
Both open and closed questions have their place in any conversation and need to be used in combination to steer you to your desired outcome of the conversation.

Closed questions should be used to take control and direction of the conversation when you feel as though it is going off the topic you want to discuss. Open questions are used to gather information usually. This information could be whether you have something that you can offer them as an organisation or something specific to what you are doing for them.

Open questions are great for getting details however they can sometimes lead to the conversation away from your topic, in this case you should use another closed question to bring it back to what you want.

Using “yes tags”
A “yes tag” is the bit you tag onto the end of a statement that turns it into a question that the other person will answer “yes”.  Examples include “isn’t it?”, “don’t you?”, “wouldn’t we?” and so on….
The human conscious mind has two basic emotional states.  Positive and negative.  They are called many other things, but these are two main conditions that we maintain.  It therefore goes without saying that one must be in one or other of these states at any one time – you cannot be both positive and negative at the same moment.
We are going to have a far more productive conversation with someone in a positive state than a negative one – right?

So, how do we ensure that we keep ourselves, and the person that we are talking with, positive?  We use “yes tags” on questions and ask questions that we know will be answered “yes”.  It does not matter whether the person answers your question out loud as long as you know that it will be being answered somewhere with a yes”.
Remember from above that our goal is to keep the other person positive during our conversation so that they are able to say “yes” when you ask for some commitment.  So, to keep them positive have them saying “yes” or other positive statements regularly.  Let’s look at some examples:

“Hot today isn’t it?” – notice the “yes tag”
 “Do you expect the need for XYZ Service to increase?”
“You would need more staff to do that – wouldn’t you?”

The purpose is not to have a conversation full of these questions, but to include them regularly to ensure that the other person remains in a positive state.

Are you listening carefully?

IMG_1000It has been said that you should talk and listen in the ratio of one mouth to two ears!  On this basis, how you listen is twice as important as what you say and how you say it.  How do you listen?  Surely listening is listening you are either listening or you are not?  What do you think?

Imagine two situations.  In the first you are in a product briefing being given by a supplier whose products you don’t sell much.  It is Friday at 4:30PM, the sun is shining outside, the room is hot and the presenter is appalling!  He is talking in a monotone and has been taking about the same graphic for the past 30 minutes.  Half the people in the room are asleep!  How are you listening?

In the second situation you are with the senior buyer of your largest client.  He is describing his plans to take your complete product range.  You know that by the end of this meeting you will have done your annual target for sales twice over!  How are you listening?

Given these two situations, there are different levels of listening:

  1. Glazed Eyes.  You are not far away from dropping off to sleep.  You would be hard pressed to remember anything about what has been said at all.
  2. Automatic Response.  This is typical in meetings and conversations where your mind is somewhere else.  You are making the standard, automatic responses to the other person: “Sure”, “Yeah”, “oh that’s nice”, “no problem” and so on.  You wake up with a start when you realise that you have congratulated him on his son’s drug addiction problem!
  3. Last Few Words.  This goes all the way back to the schoolroom when you were listening with one ear whilst daydreaming.  The teacher asks you “What was I just saying, Smith?”.  You are able to dredge up the last few words that the teacher said and thus avoid their wrath.
  4. Answer Questions.  If you can answer questions about the discussion, you are paying attention and thinking about the subject in hand.  When you are in this mode of listening you stand a reasonable chance of remembering some of the discussion later.
  5. Tell Someone Else.  If you can tell someone else about the discussion, you are attentive and probably verifying the information as you go along with questions and confirmations of your own.
  6. Teach Someone Else.  If you are also able to teach someone else about the material, you are at the peak of attentiveness.  This is the optimal state of listening.  You are enjoying the subject matter, confirming points with questions of you own and you feel highly involved in the conversation.

Now, consider how the other person will feel about you if you are listening to them at level 1, or level 3, or level 6?  Do you think that they appreciate being listened to?  If so, do you think that she will be able to tell the difference between the different levels at which you may have been listening?  Of course she can! Rapport develops rapidly between two people where they are both actively listening to each other.  That is, they are both listening at level 4, 5 or 6.

Actively listening to someone is the fastest way to build rapport with that person.  And selling is all about influencing the buyer to your point of view.  By actively listening, you can persuade without saying anything!  When you do speak, isn’t it likely that the other person will now pay attention to you as well?  He or she is going to actively hear your sales message rather than listening with glazed eyes.

 

How To Regain Your Audience’s Attention In a Presentation

Asleep in class

Your talk should always be stimulating, relevant and interesting to your audience (otherwise, why are you talking to them?).  If you have mixed interests in your audience, it is likely that some parts of your presentation will be of less relevance to some people than others.  It is therefore vital that you are able to regain those people’s interest.

The best techniques I have found to regain attention are:

  1. Silence.  Silence is often a good ploy.  Just pause for a few seconds after making a point, maybe looking in the general direction of the person not paying attention, and she will suddenly realise everything has gone quiet and look up with a start.  The aim is not to embarrass her, just to regain her attention.
  2. Questions.  If you ask a question of your audience (even if you don’t expect an answer), the change in tone and interaction will restore attention, particularly if there is a few seconds of silence after you ask your question.
  3. Change tone.  If you have been delivering your presentation in a level voice then a change in volume (louder or quieter), accent or pitch will cause a person who is daydreaming to look up.
  4. Loud noise. Find an excuse to drop a big book on the floor, clap your hands, stamp your feet, cough or do anything else that will generate a loud, sharp noise.  Even those who are asleep will respond to this!
  5. Transitions.  If you have broken up your presentation into segments, you will give an introduction and summary between each segment.  You can use these transitions to enliven an audience.  Write your transitions in terms of audience benefit.  Sell them on the next segment coming up and maybe even “preview” up coming segments.  “That is one way to increase your profits by 10% and I’ll be showing you four other excellent ways by which you can increase you nett profit using this product, but first I want to tell you about………”.

Watch your audience’s eyes as you use these approaches and once you are satisfied that they are paying attention, you can move onto your next point.

12 steps to persuasive conversations

IMG_1012If you consider the many hundreds of conversations you have each week, some long, some short, some business related, some not, then it will become clear to you that this is a vital part of our business and social lives.  We can do little without becoming involved in a conversation, whether collecting an order from a client, or ordering lunch in a restaurant. Therefore by turning our attention to these conversations and improving their content, you will be able to improve the standard of your conversations.

In a business context, this means improved relationships with your clients, prospects, peers, staff and management.  In your personal life you will also have the opportunity to improve your relationships and persuade others to your point of view without browbeating them. The basic rules that you should follow are as follows:

  1. Think of a chess clock.  This is two clocks in one.  Only one of which is running at any one time.  When one player has made his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and starts his opponents.  When his opponent has finished his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and re-starts the first player’s clock. If you view your conversations in this way, giving your “opponent” a chance to talk then when she has finished, she will give you the chance to talk.  Apply the “two ears to one mouth” rule so that if they “overrun”, you can gently interrupt with a closed question (one that required only a one word answer) and then start talking. Shining the light on the other person in this way will help her to open up and give far more information than you would have received otherwise.
  2. Maintain eye contact.  If you keep looking at the other person while he is talking, not only will you pick up all of the non-verbal signals he is giving off (unintentionally), but you will also reassure him that you are paying attention and listening.
  3. Make notes.  I am not blessed with a photographic memory and unless you are, you need to make notes.  This also re-assures the other person that what she is saying is so important to you that you want to write it down!
  4. Don’t finish other’s sentences.  This ranks as number one most annoying habit with many people.  Tempting as it may be, let him finish – you may be surprised!  This point is particularly important when listening to someone with a stutter.  Let him finish on his own.  He will be extremely grateful and you will build great rapport, as most people automatically finish his sentences for him.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions.  This goes hand in hand with finishing others sentences.  Give them time to finish and elaborate.  They may well reveal more information than you were expecting.
  6. Do respond.  There is nothing worse than talking to a person who sits with a blank face not saying or doing anything.  We all need the verbal and non-verbal responses to reassure us that we are being listened to and appreciated!  Nodding, smiling, “hmm” and leaning forward in our seat are all reassuring gestures to keep the other person talking.
  7. Watch your speech habits.  The moment you meet someone, they are judging you.  By the time you have spoken a dozen words they will have decided in which “box” you belong.  People will judge you as much by how you say something as by what you say.  If you have a weak ineffectual style then no matter how positive and upbeat your words, you will be judged weak and ineffective.  Watch how you judge other people!
  8. Use Questions.  Questions are great!  You can use them for clarification, to show interest, to voice objection, to show support and many other uses.
  9. Watch body language. Be aware that your body language speaks far louder that your voice.  If there is a conflict between what you are saying and how you feel about it (maybe you are uncomfortable giving the information) an astute observer will spot the conflict and probably either ask highly penetrating questions or dismiss the information she is receiving.  Where there is a choice, people tend to accept the non-verbal communication (body language, posture, etc.) as accurate and the verbal as false.
  10. Ask “Why?”.  In many situations, this simple three letter word can extract more information than any other approach.  The simple act of asking “Why?” after someone has made a statement and then sitting quietly, leaning forward slightly in your seat, pen poised, will cause most people to gush forth with information.  When repeated (“Yes but why?”) it can be even more revealing.  It also demonstrates that you are interested in what the speaker is saying.
  11. Take a pause.  There are two good uses of a well-placed pause in conversation.  The first is when the speaker has finished.  If you pause and look as if you expect him to continue, he may well do so and give you more information.  A variation of this is to pause and if he does not continue say simply “…and?”.  This may prompt further where the pause on its own did not. The second use of a pause is when answering a question.  Just before you answer a question pause and take a small breath.  This does two things: first, it gives you a chance to think before replying; and second, it shows that you are considering the question carefully.  This will add weight to your answer in the other person’s eyes.
  12. Remember what she said.  If you are able to demonstrate your complete recall of previous conversations with a person, they will be impressed.  Active listening helps you to remember, making notes will also aid your memory.  A useful technique that you can use is to repeat back to yourself everything that the other person says.  As she is talking simply repeat the words to yourself (don’t move your lips!).  You will find that this helps your concentration as well as improving your memory as you are hearing everything twice.

During your conversation ask questions about topics that you have discussed previously.  She will be impressed that you remembered and you will be able to build rapport. I have found that jotting down keywords in meetings and then writing up the meeting notes afterwards is the best way of ensuring complete recall.  Review your notes before the next meeting and pick on a few points to raise at this meeting.

How to use your credibility to be a great speaker

email selling is deadLove them or hate them, presentations are a large part of a salesperson’s life.  They can vary from a quick 5 minute impromptu talk for one person to a structured talk to many hundreds of delegates at a major exhibition.

All presentations hinge on the speaker’s ability to hold their audience’s attention.  There are many reasons why an audience may be listening to a speaker so the speaker needs to understand why the audience is listening to them.

For example, if people have paid to attend a motivational seminar, the speaker is likely to have a very receptive audience to start with.  How receptive the audience is after they started is down to the speaker!  If a manager has bullied a sales team into attending a product presentation, the speaker is less likely to start with a receptive audience.  Again it is down to the speaker whether the audience will stay dis-interested or will start to sit up and respond to the presentation.

Step number one in preparing your presentation is to consider the audience. You must establish credibility in the eyes of your audience.  Remember: beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  For your presentation to succeed you need your audience to believe that you have the knowledge, authority and right to talk on the subject.  This task can vary depending upon the audience.  If you are talking to three people who know and respect you already, your credibility is beyond question.  If you are presenting to an audience that does not know you, you will need to build credibility.  Here are some of the factors you can use to build credibility with your audience:

Display your credentials

  1. 1.       Nothing establishes competence better than credentials.  You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner, but any Degrees, certificates and licences you hold that are relevant to your audience add weight to your character.
  2. 2.       If you have any honours or awards, even something ten years ago for being the best hamburger salesman can be relevant to a group of salespeople!  Has your community, or charity honoured you?  All of these seemingly small points help to build your credibility with your audience.
  3. 3.       Have you ever been published?  Even an article five years ago in a trade journal carries weight.  There is still something about the printed and published word that impresses people.
  4. 4.       What experience do you have?  Presumably you are working in the industry about which you are presenting.  Experience is important – it implies competence.

So how do you inform your audience about your impressive credentials?  It is a bit unseemly to stand up and launch into a ten minute commercial for yourself and how great you are!  The best way is to let the person introducing you handle the bulk of the chore.  Prepare a written briefing for them to read.  If this is not possible as you are not being introduced, you will need to introduce the relevant points into your presentation.  Don’t force them, use them as logical supports for your points.

Associate yourself with high-credibility organisations

Can you claim membership of a credible organisation or, failing that, link yourself to one?

Admit failings

You can build credibility by admitting past mistakes or shortcomings.  Doing so will help you be perceived as honest.

Display similar values

People have a natural tendency to believe those who hold similar values, beliefs and attitudes and to distrust those who don’t.  If you have similar values to your audience let them know early in your presentation.

Lead by example

Are you recommending a particular course of action?  If so, it will lend credibility to your presentation if you can show that you have already followed your own advice.  Any time you can reference an action that supports what you’ll be saying – do it.

Find testimonials

It is far more convincing for someone else to sing your praises.  Get quotes from satisfied customers and industry figures held in high regard.  Get the person introducing you to work some of these into their introduction and use some yourself in your presentation.

Now that you have prepared to build your credibility to an all-time high with your audience all you have to do is to deliver your presentation and sit down!

12 Steps to Outstanding Sales Conversations

IMG_1108You may have hundreds of conversations each week, some long, some short, some business related, some personal. But not all conversations are equal and your sales conversations are probably the most crucial to get right.

Therefore by turning your attention to these conversations and improving their content, you will get more sales. Big claim, I know, but read on and humour me for a minute…

The basic rules are as follows:

  1. Think of a chess clock.  This is two clocks in one.  Only one of which is running at any one time.  When one player has made his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and starts his opponents.  When his opponent has finished his move, he presses the button on his side.  This stops his clock and re-starts the first player’s clock.If you view your conversations in this way, giving your “opponent” a chance to talk then when she has finished, she will give you the chance to talk.  Apply the “two ears to one mouth” rule so that if they “overrun”, you can gently interrupt with a closed question (one that required only a one word answer) and then start talking.

    Shining the light on the other person in this way will help her to open up and give far more information than you would have received otherwise.

  2. Maintain eye contact.  If you keep looking at the other person while he is talking, not only will you pick up all of the non-verbal signals he is giving off (unintentionally), but you will also reassure him that you are paying attention and listening.
  3.  Make notes.  I am not blessed with a photographic memory and unless you are, you need to make notes.  This also re-assures the other person that what she is saying is so important to you that you want to write it down!
  4. Don’t finish others sentences.  This ranks as number one most annoying habit with many people.  Tempting as it may be, let him finish – you may be surprised!  This point is particularly important when listening to someone with a stutter.  Let him finish on his own.  He will be extremely grateful and you will build great rapport, as most people automatically finish his sentences for him!
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions.  This goes hand in hand with finishing others sentences.  Give them time to finish and elaborate.  They may well reveal more information than you were expecting.
  6. Do respond.  There is nothing worse than talking to a person who sits with a blank face not saying or doing anything.  We all need the verbal and non-verbal responses to reassure us that we are being listened to and appreciated!  Nodding, smiling, “hmm” and leaning forward in our seat are all reassuring gestures to keep the other person talking.
  7. Watch you speech habits.  The moment you meet someone, they are judging you.  By the time you have spoken a dozen words they will have decided in which “box” you belong.  People will judge you as much by how you say something as by what you say.  If you have a weak ineffectual style then no matter how positive and upbeat your words, you will be judged weak and ineffective.  Watch how you judge other people!
  8. Use Questions.  Questions are great!  You can use them for clarification, to show interest, to voice objection, to show support and many other uses.
  9. Watch body language.  Be aware that your body language speaks far louder that your voice.  If there is a conflict between what you are saying and how you feel about it (maybe you are uncomfortable giving the information) any astute observer will spot the conflict and probably either ask highly penetrating questions or dismiss the information she is receiving.  Where there is a choice, people tend to accept the non-verbal communication (body language, posture, etc.) as accurate and the verbal as false.
  10. Ask “Why?”.  In many situations, this simple three letter word can extract more information than any other approach.  The simple act of asking “Why?” after someone has made a statement and then sitting quietly, leaning forward slightly in your seat, pen poised, will cause most people to gush forth with information.  When repeated (“Yes buy why?”) it can be even more revealing.  It also demonstrates that you are interested in what the speaker is saying.
  11. Take a pause.  There are two good uses of a well-placed pause in conversation.  The first is when the speaker has finished.  If you pause and look as if you expect him to continue, he may well do so and give you more information.  A variation of this is to pause and if he does not continue say simply “..and?”.  This may prompt further where the pause on its own did not.The second use of a pause is when answering a question.  Just before you answer a question pause and take a small breath.  This does two things: first, it gives you a chance to think before replying; and second, it shows that you are considering the question carefully.  This will add weight to your answer in the other persons eyes.
  12. Remember what she said.  If you are able to demonstrate your complete recall of previous conversations with a person, they will be impressed.  Active listening helps you to remember, making notes will also aid your memory.  A useful technique that you can use is to repeat back to yourself everything that the other person says.  As she is talking simply repeat the words to yourself (don’t move your lips!).  You will find that this helps your concentration as well as improving your memory as you are hearing everything twice.During your conversation ask questions about topics that you discussed previously.  She will be impressed that you remembered and you will be able to build rapport.

I have found that jotting down keywords in meetings and then writing up the meeting notes afterwards is the best way of ensuring complete recall.  Review your notes before the next meeting and pick on a few points to raise at this meeting.

How to spot a liar

SONY DSCIt is very important to know when a person is being economical with the truth, or just plain lying in any business situation.  To the skilled observer the majority of people can be quickly detected when not telling the truth (I exclude politicians from this as they make a career from avoiding uttering the truth!).

People signify their discomfort with what they are saying through combinations of body language gestures and eye movements.  We are looking for the combination.  Never take one movement in isolation – the person may have a nervous twitch!

Typical body language movements that would indicate discomfort with the spoken message include:

Pulling at the corner of his eye, his ear or his collar.  All of these gestures show major discomfort.  Watch you actions next time you spot a Police car in your mirror when driving.  If you have any reason to feel guilty your free hand will be pulling the bottom of your ear down.  Incidentally, the Police have been trained to look for this gesture – it is so common!

Remember that it is the feeling guilty that generates the reaction, not actual guilt.  This is important when interpreting body language.  If you are dealing with a nervous person and you ask her a direct question that she feels nervous about answering, even if she tells the absolute truth she is still going to exhibit some of these signs, as she is nervous.  It is the combination of changes this is important.

Blushing.  Many people cannot help blushing when they lie.  It may be subtle, but is often noticeable.

Foot Tapping.  This is often a sign of lying, almost as if the person is saying “get on with it, I’m not comfortable with this.”

Movement stops.  When a person is normally animated in their speech, using lots of arm movements and being expressive with his face, he can go very still when not telling the truth.  This is almost as if he fears that movement or expression will give the untruth away.

Eyes shut.  It is a sure sign of lying when someone shuts their eyes as they talk.  The person is worried that you will see the lie in their eyes and so shuts them.

Erratic breathing and flat voice.  Both of these signs come from a person trying to control their body to not give away their discomfort with their words.

Licking/touching lips or mouth.  If you have ever seen a young child tell an untruth, you will often see him put his whole hand over his mouth.  Touching the lips or mouth is an “adult” version of this gesture.  Most people would recognise licking lips as a nervous gesture that can indicate lying if used in conjunction with other gestures.

The eyes.  It has been said that the eyes are the only visible part of the brain.  They can certainly provide you with much information about the thoughts inside a persons head!

Generally, when a person is retrieving past memories, she will look to your left as you face her (she left them there) and if she is in the process of creating new information, she will look to your right.  If you ask here a question to which she should already know the answer (eg, “when is your birthday?”) she should look to the left as you face her to retrieve the information.  If she looks to the right it is an indication that she is creating the information, and in this case as she would already know her birthday, is likely to not be telling the truth.

This incredibly powerful technique can tell you a lot about what the person you are talking to is thinking about.  One word of warning, some left handed people have switched over the functions of the two sides of the brain so they will react opposite to how I have described here.  As long as you know the person, you should with practise be able to almost read their thoughts.

An interesting exercise now that you know what to look for is to watch interviews on television and see how the interviewee’s eyes move with each question – it can be very enlightening!

In summary…  This list of indications of lying should help you to identify those people who routinely avoid telling you the truth and those who only do so occasionally.  This information is extremely useful to you professionally.  A word of warning.  It is unlikely to help your case to blurt out “Liar!!” when a person lies to you.  This will simply entrench him in his position and he will become overtly hostile to you as you have shown him up.  Far better to file the information away for use next time you have to deal with that person.