Fable Friday Follow-up: The most important question you must ask!

Last week you heard the story of the feckless marketer who rejected our campaign advice because he didn’t want to save half a million dollars. He said, “I’ll never get that money in my budget again!”  I asked you what the project manager should have asked the marketing director in order to avoid this disaster.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedMy friend Will Cologna of Guaranty Bank in Springfield, MO was the first to get it right.  The project manager should simply have asked early in the discussion, “What are your goals and objectives for this project?”  And then sooner or later he would have learned that a critical objective for the marketing director was protecting his budget dollars.

I positioned for you that you should ask this, or a related question any time you are trying to help someone or solve a problem, whether it be selling, negotiation, coaching, managing or even parenting.

Let’s look at a few examples and I’ll give you suggested messaging:

Negotiation: People often think price is the big negotiation point and it often is, but if you’re concerned about other objectives, try this one.  “Aside from price considerations, what else will be important to you in getting this deal done?” Always ask this question!

Coaching:  Remember the story of the sales rep who was behind on his goals and how you should coach him?  Your best question to that performer should have been, “Name, what is it that you most want to get out of this job? What lights you up? I want to help you get what you need from this role.”

Selling:  Let’s say it’s investment products.  Always ask “I’d like to learn more about your life objectives.  What’s most important to you in the way you invest your money?”

Managing:  “I’m going to go over our priorities for this week, and then I want to hear what you’re trying to achieve, and then we’re going to come to agreement on how you’ll get all this done.”

Parenting:  The kid’s room is a mess.  Don’t scold him.  Ask this question:  “(Name), when I see you I see a neat kid who has pride in himself and looks good.  I don’t see that kid when I look at this room, so let me ask you how you view yourself.  What is the kid you want to be?”

This device of always asking people to describe the optimal, is rooted in academic principles. It’s not just something I made up. There are a number of ways you can do it, and I bet you’ve heard them all. Here are a view I’ve seen that are effective.

“Bill, if you could wave a wand over this entire enterprise and have it running just the way you want it, what would that look like?”

“Fred, if you were appointed king of the world tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would fix in this organization.”

If you can find ways to get people to focus on their objectives, how they win, what they want out of life, your company, this experience, this job, you’ll have a huge advantage in effecting change.

Just tell people, “I’m interested in your dreams.”  That’s how you…

Think Like Your Customer

Now that you know what that first great question is, what should be your next question?  This is important.  Write to me if you think you know it.  (Not you, Will!) I’ll cover it next week and share the academic principles too.


About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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