Questioning to build a Rapport
Hello and welcome to this Single Sales Principal webcast, where I’m going to be looking at how we can use questions to achieve something beyond simply finding out either, informative background information about a customer or even finding out what their genuine compelling needs are. Those two things are really important, obviously they form a core part of the process of the Single Sales Principle but we can use questions do more than that, what we can actually do if we really smart with both the type of questions that we ask and the way that we ask those questions, use it to build rapport and build relationships with our customers.
Compelling needs are a critical part of the Single Sales Principle, it’s a bit that comes first, it’s the bitter right at the top of the chain that says, you know what we don’t do anything else until we get a really, really good quality, high-quality understanding of our buyers. As we go through that process, though there are potentials for it to go badly wrong, but there is also the potential for it to go extremely well and actually be a part of the relationship building process, so that we can move from the compelling need down into the credible solution really, really seamlessly and we make it easy to express that level of credibility and deliver that level of credibility because of the relationship that we managed to build at the stage of the compelling need.
Building a Connection
Essentially what we’re talking about here is building a connection with the people through the communication that we have and we all know that if we have really high-quality communication with people that is how the relationship is built. Unfortunately, the opposite can happen as well, if we have a low-quality communication with people we can actually damage or undermine or prevent relationships from developing, prevent the report from developing with another person, it can either build it or it can destroy it and obviously we want to do the former, far more than we want to do the latter.
One of the challenges with the emphasis that we put on questioning as part of the Single Sales Principle, is that we know there is a whole load of information that we want to get out from our customers, both the background type information and then needs type information and if we focused too much on simply extracting that sort of stuff from the person that were communicating with, it can feel a little bit like an interrogation, we’ve got them cornered in a room there’s no escape for them at all and It’s just question, question, question, question, question. Even then if we move into the sophisticated area of Socratic questioning, which is a subject of one of the earlier webcasts in this program. You can think actually all you’re trying to do here is get stuff out of me, you’re drilling down so hard and it’s an unpleasant and difficult experience for our buyers from time to time.
So we need to make sure we don’t do that, we don’t turn our IQ questions into some sort of checklist of, have I got this information, have I got this information, have I got this information because it can just sound too much like hard work from the buyer’s point of view. We need to make sure that we our questioning in such a way that we’re developing a positive relationship with somebody, in a real natural conversational style whilst retaining focus on what we need to find out in order to be able to sell successfully and what we need to find out, in order to be able to match the needs of the buyer with a credible solution that we’re going to offer them later.
Equally with compelling needs questions, why you will know if you’ve been on any of my training courses why is one of my favorite questions of all time but actually if you ask why in an inappropriate way, in an inappropriate context, it can actually serve to undermine the relationship, people can look at you and say, well it is that way or actually can even come across as slightly aggressive in some contexts. A few years ago I was running a Single Sales Principle training programme out in Germany and one of the challenges that was brought to me by the delegates in that group is, you can’t ask the question why, it is an aggressive question to ask and I have a bit of fun with the group and what I asked them to do was, use the German word for why, “Warum” and actually say it in lots of different ways, so I gave them an emotion that they had to express, whilst using that one very simple word and those emotions would range from a sadness, through to happiness, through to being really really an interrogation driven thing, through to curiosity, through to romance, through to any of these sort of things and you know what if you play with the words and use the words differently, we can turn this three letter word and any other word and any other phrase into lots and lots of different things. The key is to question well and question carefully and be aware of the impact that we’re having others.
The 5 Levels of Communication
One of the rationales behind this, one of the usually structured models for how questioning can build relationships, is actual to look at the five levels of communication or what we tend to call the rapport triangle. The way that we asked questions as we go up is really important because down here at the bottom of the report triangle, you’ve got this nice safe zone where it’s really easy to get information from people but you’re not getting anything particularly rich, as we try to get richer information up towards the top of the report triangle, we are taking risks there is much more risk up towards the top of the triangle but there is also much more value to be driven out of the information that we get, so we need to do that we need to make a move out through the report triangle but we need to do it with great care and great skill. So I’m going to talk to you a little bit about each of these five levels and then we’re going to look at some very simple questioning techniques that we can use to make sure as we progress up this report triangle and what I’m later going to refer to as the relationship pyramid with somebody, we do it in a way that is far more likely to build rapport, rather than damage or destroy it.
So let’s have a look at these elements separately, as we move up, we move up from an area where it’s a bland and ordinary conversation down at the bottom to something that is much richer and the bland and ordinary bit right at the very bottom is what we call the Ritual Cliché. This is such a superficial level of conversation, there’s nothing wrong with it and actually is a good place to start but we need to be both aware of the need and ready to move beyond ritual cliché, in order to be able to develop much deeper relationships with people. This is the meeting and greet type stuff, it’s the saying hello, oh isn’t the weather bad outside, what did you see on TV last night, that sort of thing. It’s something that is just passing the time and great it’s an easy gentle start but we need to make sure we moved way beyond that, relatively quickly and keep the conversation focused in the direction in which we wanted to go.
Facts & Information
Once we move beyond ritual cliché that next level of the triangle facts and information. This is where your IQ questioning comes in, it’s a warm up towards getting more powerful information but it’s getting specific pieces of information out of people. The facts based stuff really helps to focus the conversation on the areas we want to discuss, moving away from talking about the weather or the television last night and those sort of things, into talking about information that will be useful for both parties in the sales relationship. We do need to make sure, that as we do this we don’t just do one thing after another, after another, expressing genuine interest in the fact that you’re receiving the information that you receiving from people, using gentle Socratic questioning to find out more and then moving back up to broaden the conversation out again, doing it subtly all the way through is really important, it’s not a question of what budget do you have available, when would you like something to be delivered, what pack size would you prefer these, are all useful pieces of information in certain sales context but we have to make sure we do it in a gentle subtle and conversational style. By all means go into the sales call with your list of questions, make sure you get the information get the data that you need to be able to manage the business successfully but do it with skill and style.
Ideas & Judgements
As we move into the more un safe zone, we’re starting to explore things where people will feel a little bit more at risk, people will feel a little bit more sensitive about the information that they’re going to give you. The first of these, the third level of the relationship and rapport triangle is ideas and judgments, what we’re trying to get here is, what are people’s opinions about things, how did they form their opinions about things and how are they coming to the conclusions that they’re expressing to us. The challenge with this and the challenge to be able to do it really carefully and really sensitively with people, is as soon as they start telling you this sort of information, they’re putting themselves on the line with you, the putting themselves on the line because actually by sharing this sort of stuff, they’re sharing what is going on in their brain, they’re sharing a thought process that they’ve had its not purely factual information at this point it’s that own judgment about things and as soon as you start expressing your own judgment about things there is the opportunity for others around you, if you’re in an environment where this sort of thing might happen, to judge you negatively, of course they could judge you positively but when we thinking about the risk in communicating things, we think well maybe I’ll hold back from giving this information because it may create a negative judgment in the eyes of the person to whom I’m giving the information. We need to be really careful as we move out of the really safe, further up this report triangle to make sure that people feel comfortable doing it, we need to take our time. A lot of it is actually about making sure that we, as the person asking the questions are willing to share our judgments as well, it’s much easier for people to expose themselves a little and feel a little bit vulnerable if we’ve already done it ourselves and shown that it’s the sort of environment that is safe to do that in. So actually instead of maybe diving in straight with questions about why do you think that, express some of your thoughts, express some of the judgments incompletions that you’ve come to, give the reasons why, briefly because we don’t want to talk about ourselves but by doing that what we can do is just open up the conversation and make people feel more comfortable in this safe zone of sharing their own thoughts, their own ideas, their own judgments in their own conclusions about things.
Feeling & Emotions
Once we move up to level 4, we’re getting further and further away from the safe zone. So how does that feel for you and in most business environments in fact, most environments in life, you got to feel really secure and comfortable with somebody to be able to express your true feelings about something. Your feelings and emotions are at a much deeper personal level than your judgments and ideas, we want to get this out because as we know from the Single Sales Principle, the emotional needs that people have are amongst the most powerful for getting people to make decisions and for understanding what will help people to make the decisions that we want them to make, the challenge with that is as we are selling higher value things and the emotions are becoming more powerful in terms of the decision-making process, the risk is also far stronger, so again what we need to do is reassure people all the way through this process that as they’re expressing their feelings and emotions we are on the same side as them, we are putting ourselves in their shoes we are demonstrating empathy as they go through the process of expressing how they feel about things. If you’re asking somebody in a selling environment how would you feel if something happened, we want to make sure that we get a really high-quality answer in response to that. So we need to make sure that when we asked the question we create the space for the other person to answer and to answer in this safe space so they can give us the information that we want. We’ll talk about how to do that with the personality map a little bit later on but if we can get to this point in a relationship where people are sharing their emotions and their feelings with us, we’re in a far more powerful position in terms of the rapport that we’re building for them.
Ultimately of course where we want to get to his peak rapport right at the top of the rapport triangle and peak rapport is actually when both parties, both understand each other and know each other well enough, to be able to share things and actually in a sales environment it’s really interesting when the sales person goes into the environment willing to share how they feel about the situation, they’re willing to open themselves up to potential judgment, to potential criticism for their approach. Again as with all of these in the unsafe area towards the top we need to do it really carefully, do with skill but it’s amazing when we get there, that level of conversation that you can have with somebody else the, level of genuine broad-based information you can get from them is huge and when we get to this peak rapport level of the rapport triangle, what actually happens is we have conversations on a completely different level than we would otherwise have been having with individual and we can share things, we can share far more across a far broader range and through doing that come up with much better ideas for how things could change, how things could be better in the future and if you can do that that is where genuine business growth genuine and new concepts appear and if we can get that then, as with a Single Sales Principle, in general, we’re up at the boardroom level of the relationship pyramid with people, we are no longer at this transaction level that fits at the bottom of the rapport triangle, we are far, far deeper than that.
So how do we go about doing this, this is an NLP model that I was introduced to quite a few years ago probably the best part of a decade ago and it’s still a really, really powerful tool that’s great to use. The five levels match very, very closely to the levels of the rapport triangle but what it talks about is how do we actually go about understanding another human being because to develop rapport, to develop relationships with people it’s essentially about increasing our level of understanding of them as well as of course in parallel, allowing them to increase their level of understanding about us.
So the bottom two levels here, on the relationship pyramid match on to the rapport triangle often at the beginning of a session with somebody, we meet somebody for the first time, we’re at a networking group or something like that, what we talk about is what they do and what I do and my environment and their environment these sort of questions are about where do you live, have you travelled far, what’s your job etc. All of this stuff which is useful information it’s great but do you know what, it doesn’t really take you very far into genuinely understanding the drivers behind the other individual. There is a kind of glass ceiling in place here from the E and the D the environment and the Do, that can prevent us from getting a genuine and true and deep level of understanding of somebody else and therefore, be able to have built successful and powerful rapport with them, we need to push on through that and once we’ve been through the cycle of asking the basic questions of people, we’ve got a little insight into one particular aspect of their life, we can move up to the I can get, this is about their skills this is about their capabilities, what do they bring to their job, what do they bring two particular hobby that they do ,what are their key capabilities and skills they have and once people start sharing those they are ideas and judgments about things, they are sharing things with you at a much deeper level than they are if they just say they do something. An example of it might be simply a hobby, what do you do at the weekend? well, I go running around my local park, do the park run. Now that’s the do and the environment, well great that there are lots and lots of different ways of undertaking something like the park run, what other capabilities and skills it could, for example, be you know what I go and I run pretty slowly because I’m taking my young children with me and it’s actually a family type activity, it could be I’ve made a commitment and the decision to change my health, to lose weight, to become fitter and all of that sort of stuff and I’ve set myself targets those sort of things, very different to the families type approach. It could be you know it’s a great opportunity to go out and socialize and get a bit of breath of fresh air and when I go there I’m with my friends and so on and it’s all about the chance and then going and doing something together afterwards, grabbing a coffee. All very different things but essentially from the same doing and the same environment situation. If we then understand what the skills and capabilities are that this person brings to this particular activity that they do, be that a work one or a hobby based one one, we can start to access some of their beliefs about themselves, why do they think that’s important, what is important about this process to them and so again if we take the family model, well what’s important to them about that it’s great to be able to spend time with your children away from electronic equipment, away from the distractions of day-to-day life and do something together in the great outdoors they might believe that that is a really important thing to do, likewise with the socializing aspect I don’t get much time normally to socialize with my friends but my Saturday morning out there doing the park run is a great opportunity to socialize and it makes me feel happier, so the belief there is about the connection between personal satisfaction, personal happiness and the connection with friends that life currently isn’t allowing you to have, that’s a much more powerful understanding of another human being than just talking about the fact they do the park run in their local park on a Saturday morning.
If we can then move beyond that to the very top of the relationship pyramid, to understand what the other person is, the I am part of the relationship pyramid then we are at a whole new level, this is the peak rapport level. This is where actually what is happening is your understanding the real drivers of pretty much anything that that individual does and the reason for that is, there’s not that much up at the top of the I am part of the relationship pyramid because up there, who you are as a rounded human being, that can be represented in lots and lots of different areas, which is why It get broader towards the bottom there might be lots of different activity’s that somebody does in lots of different places but they all representations of who they are, genuinely as a human being and if we understand who they are genuinely as human being we can then start to map out other things that they might like to do , other things that they might not like to do and we can start to understand how the bits of the jigsaw, the little pieces of information about that individual’s fit together as a whole, rather than just being a series of discrete activities towards the bottom.
In a buying-selling relationship, this works incredibly powerful as well because you think most of the conversation is just about, well you know where do you work, what’s your targets and all of these sort of things. That’s great and useful information but it doesn’t really help you build that relationship, imagine if you could genuinely understand what the capabilities and skills are of the individual, what I really bring to my role here is an innovative capability etc. or what I bring here is the ability to be able to you closely and accurately manage the financial structure of my business what I’m able to do here and so on and so on because if you get that you’re starting to get towards both a better relationship but a much much deeper level of understanding of what the genuine needs of that person are and if you can over a long period of time in a professional relationship, get right up towards the top of this relationship pyramid, then apparently you are in a great place to be able to do the right things by that person and to take risks with a person, to change things and to make sure that any innovations coming into the marketplace, any new ideas coming into the marketplace can be safely brought to their attention in a way that you will get great quality feedback to others, yet go with it or know this needs to change or even that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Getting up to this unsafe area at the top of either the rapport triangle or the relationship pyramid is actually really safe once you’ve made it there, once you made it to the end destination at this point you’re in a safe place, it’s just the journey that can be a little bit tricky.
Improving our Level of Understanding
So I want to finish this session by just talking about a particular set of tools or how do we do the questioning to make sure we can move up this relationship pyramid and I call it the SOCS questioning process, I rather misspelled socks. This is a way of making sure that as we are getting deeper and deeper into a relationship with somebody, through asking them questions and improving our level of understanding of them we do it in a way that works, that is far less likely to undermine the relationship and far more likely to build the relationship, then build rapport.
So how do we do this, well the first S in the SOC’s profile stands for short, keep your questions really short, keep them brief and to the point. The key to this is we’re not trying to put too much information into our questions we’re not trying to hedge our bets with everything because as soon as we do that, there’s always the danger the increased danger of people misinterpreting what we’re after, if you ask a really nice, simple question then you are more likely to get an accurate answer to the question that we asked so keep your questions simple and really nice and short.
The second one stands for open, everybody I hope it knows what an open question is but is always a real challenge to ask a genuinely open question because we can close a questions down, we can show them into multiple choice questions when we say what do you think about this, do you think it’s good, do you think is medium ,do you think it’s bad, we’re actually closing down the opportunity to really get information from somebody else and if we doing that we’re also risking the relationship because we’re telling people what they would think of the question that we’re asking so keep it short and keep it open, so we can get good quality information.
The next one is slightly dodgy but isn’t dodgy at all is, you need to keep your questions clean, that doesn’t mean don’t be rude, I hope that goes without saying when you have a good relationship with anybody let alone with a buyer. What it means is keep it clean, keep it stripped back from your own preconceptions about things, keep it stripped back from any complex or even evocative language that you might choose to use, use the words of the person you’re talking too back towards them within your questions, so you are talking to them within their zone of questioning, keep those questions clean, don’t overlay your perception on top of them, let them come to you with their perceptions of things.
Finally, I’ve mentioned this one already but again, it’s vitally important question. Keep it simple and make them easy for the other person to answer the number of questions that you see that are so long and they have multiple parts in them you get to the end of the question and the poor person on the receiving end of the questions is thinking, I just don’t understand how to answer it, I would like to answer and willing to share the information, I just don’t get the question anymore and again these little glitches might not ultimately destroy a relationship but they sure make it harder to maintain that relationship and build that relationship in a positive way. So keep your question short and open, clean and simple, that way we’re going to be in a much stronger position to be able to ask great questions, get great information and through that process build a relationship and build rapport with somebody.
Building a Relationship and Building Rapport
The very final element, of course, it is all very good, being short and open and clean and simple in our questioning but we need to make sure the style, with which we question things is important. Again it’s a big part of the Single Sales Principle approach to think about the behaviour and split of the way that we present ourselves to other people, when we’re asking questions think about our body language, there’s some great examples of this in politics of the moment that is coming alive, if you wanted to make a point or get direct and to the point somebody off focus in a particular area it can be really tempting to point fingers at about this and what about this what about this body language experts in inverted commas and I think there may be overplayed their hand in certain areas, have said to politicians don’t go and point because it looks aggressive and it looks controlling and so on and unfortunately they’ve given very specific techniques for people to use, to get away from the pointing thing and you’ll see an awful lot of politicians these days holding their hands with the thumbs just across the top of the fist, they’re still making gestures but it seems to be less aggressive, rather than pointing a finger at somebody. Actually most cases a little bit weird and uncomfortable because it’s not a natural body language for that individual, so keep your body language natural but just be conscious of what you’re doing be aware of what you’re doing and most importantly be aware of the impact that you’re having. That’s the 55 percent of the behaviour and communication pie, by 38% on here is the vocal tone part, just like with the Germans who I was suggesting there are different ways to ask the question why, we need to make sure we put that into a voice, put genuine curiosity into their, the rising inflection at the end of the question. If we’re asking in a difficult area if we are probing for something that is actually the feelings and the judgment area, then actually what we need to do is soften our voices a little, make sure that our voice creates this safe space in which we can have a conversation. Again it’s not about pretending to be something you’re not or copying the style of somebody else thought about putting on the traditional counsellor’s voice or something like that, what is actually is, it’s he’s just being a bit of a softer version of you, as you get into this closer relationship, get a bit closer, talk a bit more quietly, lower your voice, talk a bit more slowly and people will feel more comfortable talking to you in that environment. Also, of course, it’s seven percent on here but we hope that the words are absolutely critically important, if we’re going to ask questions, yes we keep it clean we don’t put words that are judgments on top of the questions but we’re also conscious of making sure we don’t use negative words with things, we don’t weaken the questions we’re asking by putting words that are unhelpful into it.
So by all means do your preparation with the questions, have you listened back but don’t use them in an interrogator style don’t use them in a way that the vocal tone isn’t right, their body language is all wrong. We need to make sure that we do in this soft and gentle way using the right words to write short open simple and clean questions, to make sure that we both get the information we need and we build a relationship as we go through the questioning process.
Thank you very much for listening to this webcast I hope you’ve enjoyed it, as usual, please do fire emails through to us. Tweet us, go on the website and if there are subjects you would like us to address in the series then please just let us know. We hope that you enjoyed it hope that you’ll have a browse around and see some of the other webcasts that are available and do stay tuned for the next one coming alive in a week’s time as well, thank you