When you make a statement, people receive it passively. However when you ask a question, people are compelled to answer it. When you ask a question, it requires the recipient to make a degree of effort to process the content and then respond. And when people come up with their own answer, they endorse the belief more than if you just out right told them.
But asking questions requires a suspension of ego; that is, a shift from needing to be the smartest person in the room, and let me tell you every single thing I know to show you how clever I am, to, I know nothing. Sadly, because of our schooling and culture, asking questions is perceived as a sign of weakness.
Research shows questions outperform statements when it comes to persuading others. Socrates, the great Greek philosopher and teacher, taught by asking questions, a method so powerful he was eventually sentenced to death by the governing elites.
Questions are a powerful tool to shift people’s focus.
Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell Is Human, gives a great example of the question pitch with Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. Reagan could have gone on about the economy or how bad his opponent was. Instead it was based on the question; “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” This simple question got people thinking and answer the question for themselves.
I did something similar a few weeks ago while working with a startup cold-calling a major multinational organisation. Instead of blurting out our product’s benefits, I asked the prospect person the question, “how important is it for you to reach XYZ”. The answer was “very important”; she was curious and we immediately booked a time for a meeting.
Over to you. What one question can you ask to get prospective clients to want to meet you? If you’re stuck, tell me in the comment box below what you’re selling and I’ll help you out.