How to make friends on your next flight- why do asking questions work?

If you were sad enough to type: ‘how to impress strangers?’ on Google, you will come up with a wealth of information. Read through it and almost all pieces agree that to get on with strangers you must:

  1. Smile
  2. Make it about them
  3. Ask open-ended questions

Carry on reading about open-ended questions and you might come across this interesting story; according to a study by psychologist Arthur Aron called ‘The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness you can make someone fall in love with you by asking them 36 open-ended questions designed to foster the atmosphere of mutual vulnerability and intimacy that a romantic relationship thrives on…

You might not be looking to meet strangers or make them fall in love with you at all. However, if like many of us you are going on holiday this summer, you might end up sitting next to a stranger for some time. This time, rather than putting your headphones on and watching Netflix throughout, try and ask your fellow passenger some open-ended questions and see what happens. If nothing else, you will be practising the most important sales skills: asking questions and listening to the answers.

There are many books about questions for selling from How to Persuade and Influence People by Phillip Hesketh through The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy to How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. They all provide good advice on asking questions when selling. So why is everyone so fixated on asking questions, you might ask?

Brad Sugars at ActionCoach explains it well through his formula for change, stating that in order to bring about change (in other words close the deal) pain has got to be greater than the resistance to change. I agree, though to understand their pain and ascertain how great it is, you need to ask a lot of questions and do plenty of listening. Yet, so many of us run to offer a solution as soon as we hear half a hint for a need. It is in our nature to want to help out and be able to offer advice, but the answer to increasing conversion, or falling in love if you like, is listening and asking more questions.

How about this quote as an ending: ‘What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question…’ Jonas Salk, American medical researcher and virologist

If you find that your sales team needs some help with asking better questions, get in touch.

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