One of the most powerful tools on earth
People tend to ask the wrong questions and it's not their fault. They show up to learn something, are most often accomplished individuals and in most cases are very capable of guiding and leading the conversation. But here's the thing: they're not credible in this instance, mainly because they came to you for help and can only ask questions from their frame of reference, which is limited and cannot possibly incorporate the breadth of what you're about to offer. If they knew the answers and could or wanted to solve their own problem, you wouldn't be having this conversation, would you?
This is where non-sequitors (NS) come in as very handy. Whenever people want you to offer forth an opinion and you don't know enough information about their situation or feelings to effectively answer, a NS allows you to acknowledge their question and simultaneously gather information about their unique situation.
Here are a few examples:
Customer: ""What type of work do you do?"" You: ""That's a great question and we'll get to it in just a bit, but what I'm really wondering is what's important to you? What are you looking to achieve in the next 6-12 months?""
Customer: ""Who are your past clients?"" You: ""That's a great question and it sounds to me like what you're really asking me is can I do the job and am I credible? I am and can perform the job you described, but to do so would need to know what you're looking to achieve. Why don't you tell me a bit about that?""
Customer: ""So if you spoke at our conference what would you want to speak about?"" You: ""Great question and I'm wondering what topics you have covered already?"" In each instance you'll notice that I didn't answer the question. In my experience, the worst sales calls are the ones where connection is never really built and you don't understand their needs, wants and fears deeply. This goes for your customers as well as your partner.
I've gone into sales calls where they seemed so excited about the product or service that after 10 minutes of me pitching I swore it was a go. I've had people actually tell me that what I offer is exactly what they need and want and still not buy.
I talked way too much and was not qualified to offer a solution without really understanding what they wanted beyond a superficial level. Sometimes you'll have to answer questions and it's not to say you should never answer them. It's a tool you should use when you don't, as a professional, know enough to answer.
Getting over the fear of leading the conversation is necessary for you to provide the value necessary to be the bad ass I'm thinking you want to be if you're reading this blog.