I received this email from one of our program participants that illustrates the benefits of listening and asking questions. Specific names have been removed to maintain confidentiality but her process and outcome are worth sharing.
Your help in prepping me for my important meeting today with our prospect from XYZ was invaluable. It was just supposed to be a quick “coffee”, but it went much longer than that, and we had a wide-ranging discussion during which he shared some confidential information about the company and indicated a strong intent to move on with us.
After a few pleasantries, I asked him how things were going. That question immediately got him going, with him telling me the critical things that were going on at the company and sharing with me the most important issues with which they are dealing. I guided the discussion with a number of questions. As the conversation progressed, I began to contribute my experiences or views on an issue, when he seemed to want it — he did enjoy the give-and-take and the harking back to our old company. However, there were a few times when I was going to talk but shut my mouth quickly, when it became apparent that he had a lot more to say. I also was very careful to be brief in my comments, something I’m not always good at.
I learned a lot listening to him, and also I felt that he became more and more invested in our conversation and relationship as we went along. One piece of evidence of this is that at one point he looked at his watch and said he needed to break away. However, he didn’t, and instead we kept going in a substantive discussion for probably another 15 minutes.
Another piece of evidence is that, early on in our discussion, he talked about getting back with us in six months. By the end of our meeting, he had changed that to two months. Mentioning that we should be involved upfront in helping them develop their strategy.
This approach to the meeting definitely helped ensure a successful outcome. I learned a lot about the company and their issues; we built our relationship in this new form (client-consultant vs. co-workers); and we have a next step. I was not as nervous about the meeting as I might have otherwise been, because I really felt prepared.
Winning approach: Ask questions. Listen. Do not interrupt. Engage them in a conversation. Allow them to think through their issue. If you want to read about how to change, you can read chapters 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 in Ford Harding’s Rain Making – 2nd Edition book.