“That’s a really good question”

How often have you heard this after you’ve asked a question (not counting classrooms or similar instructional settings)?

My bet is not that often. And yet, it’s one of the best things we can hear in our interactions with others. It shows you’ve not only thought of something connective with that individual, but they are now actively engaged in offering up a thoughtful opinion or fact.  One of the greatest assets in human communication is the power of the question. The curiosity to find out about others, and just as important, allowing other to communicate back. To offer them space to express themselves at your invitation…perhaps to reveal something about themselves on their terms. And that’s really the communication prize, isn’t it? Thoughtful interaction between humans.

Whether it’s business or social networking, sales, or organizational communication, the ability to generate a “That’s a really good question” from our audience, is powerful. In sales, getting a customer to offer truly valuable insight is the holy grail of the sales exchange. The ability to ask thought-provoking questions isn’t luck, or a gift that some people have. It’s a skill that can be learned, and when put into practice correctly, can separate the sales world into “sellers” and “valued partners.”

Give that keyboard a rest! Paradoxically, the myriad of technology channels we have at our disposal to supposedly facilitate communication, tend NOT to elicit the coveted “That’s a really good question” response. One simple reason is tonnage. The blizzard of emails, texts, instant messages make otherwise potentially good questions suffer from being part of the deluge.  Second, they filter out the human element of eye contact, voice tonality and overall body language which is a fundamental component in our communication. Which is to say the more sales folks rely on keyboards, at the expense of in-person, the less effective their communication.

Indeed, live in-person face-to-face interaction and even phone calls (and I suppose zoom-like meetings to a degree), are the best conditions to create human connection, and in turn, allow the thoughtfulness of a question to get processed and judged to be “good” or not.

If you’d like to start hearing “That’s a really good question” more often:

  1. Research your audience. Understand who might be at an upcoming function or gathering. Are they with the same organization? Are they new or veterans? What major issues may be facing their industry. Examples:  Banking and crypto. Executive recruiting and working from home. Automotive dealers and microchip shortages. It’s all OUT THERE. You just have to take some preparation time to find the hooks.
  2. Be ready with a follow-up question. If you don’t score the coveted “good question” reply, you simply may be a good follow-up question away. “Interesting. Why is that?” is a time-tested reliable query, as it asks your audience to go a bit deeper. I’ve heard that one of Google’s favorite approaches during engineering interviews is to ask a starting problem or challenge. When the candidate has responded, they follow with “OK. What else?”. They are looking for a deeper dive into how the candidate thinks.
  3. LISTEN! After you’ve asked your thoughtful question, really listen to the reply. There’s nothing worse than inattentive listening after someone has just told you that you asked a good question.

Here’s your early New Year’s resolution challenge. Set a goal of hearing “That’s a really good question” in your personal and business interactions. Keep score. Not only will you get that little endorphin rush, but you’ll be building a reputation for thoughtfulness, caring, and attentiveness. That’s a winning trifecta for sales and in life.

The Ganon Group offers communication coaching for executives and employees across all departments: C-Suite Leadership, Sales, Customer Experience, Technical / Product Development, to improve their communication and presentation techniques. We believe everyone can “up” their game when it comes to communicating initiatives and ideas within the organization, outside to new prospects, to existing clients, or to outside media and trade organizations. www.theganongroup.com