Engage others and orchestrate a lively dialogue by blending four types of questions:
1. Today. Get people to reveal their needs and frustrations. You may also want to extract facts and information that help you propose an appropriate solution.
Examples of “today” questions: “What initiatives are you working on?”, “What are the most challenging issues you’re facing?” and “What’s your opinion about …?”
2. Tomorrow. By bridging the gap between present and future, you exert greater persuasive power. Questions that encourage people to share their hopes, fears and aspirations can work to your advantage.
Examples of “tomorrow” questions: “What do you seek to achieve?”, “How will you measure short- and long-term success?” and “What priorities matter most in the coming months?”
3. Risk. Probe to pinpoint the perceived risks that may influence one’s actions.
Ideally, you want to induce others to embrace your proposal and convince them that accepting it outweighs the risk of rejecting it.
Examples of “risk” questions: “If the status quo continues, what’s your liability exposure?”, “What are the consequences if we don’t take action?” and “How would you characterize the risks involved?”
4. Reward. Put a positive spin on your ideas by tying them to better, richer outcomes. People are more likely to go along with you if you help them see what’s to gain.
Examples of “reward” questions: “What types of competitive advantage can we achieve if we go ahead?”, “What kind of bottom-line impact will this solution deliver?” and “What cost-effective changes would this allow you to make?”
— Adapted from Conversations That Sell, Nancy Bleeke, AMACOM.