“Please state the answer in the form of a question.” That’s the world of Jeopardy we all know and love, and you’ll be in jeopardy if you ask lots of closed ended questions with clients. You can discover much more by using techniques borrowed from the Socratic selling method. Instead of asking, who, what, when where or why, you can ask them to tell you the story, to tell you more. Everyone loves a good story, and the chance to tell their own to someone that is truly listening is rare. Close-ended questions tend to delay action, stop motion and put pressure on the scene partner to respond with facts. In business, they can cause a project to get mired in the details or delayed. Close-ended questions prevent positive change.
Regardless of what the story is, the key is to listen to understand, not to respond. Listen to the language of your body; allow yourself to lean in when something piques your interest. Their story is as unique as a snowflake and the storyteller is just as fragile while telling it. Your body language can naturally encourage the storyteller to elaborate.
We only get so many sentences in a conversation or a scene for it to either end or keep things going. Not all close-ended questions are bad; sometimes they are critical, but only if it is necessary to the reason you are there or genuine interest. Later you can explain your product or service solutions through your understanding of these specifics and putting yourself within the context of the solution. Help them out, give them something to work with and ask for more information. Appreciate the time they are taking with you profusely. They may not acknowledge your respect directly, but you’ll know be able to tell if they’re still intently listening. Hopefully they’ll have the time to tell you more and take a walk through the factory, the shop or the neighborhood. I’ll bet you both will take something positive away from the time spent, paving the way towards a stronger relationship.