a) Do you inspire the people around you?
b) How do you inspire the people around you?
Which one of the above questions is the more powerful one for you – option a or option b?
Which one of the questions makes you think more?
I used the first standard “Do you” question in my email footer until, one day, I asked my friend and advertising pro Sascha Wolf from Berlin about his opinion.
Without hesitating Sascha advised me to add the “How” to the question.
There are great reasons for doing so. The “How” avoids a Yes/No answer, the “How” triggers valuable information, the “How” reveals weaknesses, the “How” makes a great close.
No Yes or No answer
First, by asking “How” questions you prevent the despiteful conversation killers “Yes” and “No”.
Do you love me? — Yes.
How can I improve our relationship? — Em…
Do you want to go to the BBQ at our friends’ place on Saturday? — No.
How can I convince you to join the BBQ at our friends’ place on Saturday? — Em…
It’s common sense. “Do you” questions invite your interlocutor to say “Yes” or “No”. “How” questions on the other hand can never be answered by simply saying “Yes” or “No”. Maybe the end result will be the same – a big fat “No”. But – “How” questions require a reasoned answer. At least, you get closer to know the root cause for rejecting your idea, plan, proposal. Once you know the reason you can respond to it much more effectively.
An even more powerful effect of asking “How” questions is that the corresponding answers tend to provide valuable information you wouldn’t receive otherwise.
An example… Let’s take a client of mine from the frozen food sector. They have achieved an impressive pan-European market presence.
I could ask their management, “In which European markets are you present today?”
“How did you achieve your pan-European market presence?”
The second question can lead to valuable information about the client’s growth strategies in the last decade. The first question will automatically lead to a list of countries. Which I can check online.
Imagine you are a professional trainer for some specific soft skills. A killer question would be, “How do you train your people?”
The answer will provide you ideas about the HR training policy and strategy, your competitors, the concrete business potential. It’s just one “How” question, yet it can trigger a flow of valuable information.
For me the most powerful effect of a “How” question; it can reveal weak points of your interlocutor.
“How do you inspire the people around you?
The best answer you can possibly hear is, “I don’t know.” Or, “Do I?”
Once you know that your interlocutor has never thought about a specific issue, your field of possibilities is wide open.
And in sales?
Jack Vincent, a renowned sales consultant and blogger based in Luzern, Switzerland, says that, “The ‘How’ question is a great way to close a sales pitch. At the end of your sales meeting with your client John, you could ask him, ‘John, how to we proceed from here?’ Or, ‘John, how do we execute this?’ – Two options. Either John has a concrete idea and you stay in the race or he throws the ball back to you and asks you to come up with an idea. Either way, you and the client will now be talking solutions and how to proceed with the business terms.”
Unleash the Power of How
“How” questions are lightning strikes hitting the brain cells of your interlocutor. Use them wisely to uncover rich conversations, to uncover hidden information, to uncover weaknesses. Use them intelligently to close a sales pitch.
Let the lightning strike, unleash the Power of How!