We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
When in a prospect or new client meeting, there is a powerful temptation to demonstrate your credibility by telling your audience just how smart and capable you are. This often includes detailing your team’s expertise, showing examples of your work and sharing stories of your successes. This is helpful, to a point, but often it ends up with you doing most of the talking. The result is you fail to make a real connection and, more importantly, neglect to uncover the true needs of the people you are trying to help.
We’ve found a superior strategy to doing all the talking is to ask good, insightful questions and then listen carefully. Rather than tell people how smart you are, it’s much more powerful to allow them to come to that conclusion on their own, based on the quality and nature of your questions. And, a lot of good information is revealed through interactive conversations that you won’t otherwise uncover. Many people are afraid to ask questions as they think it may make them look vulnerable, unprepared or even dumb. On the contrary, asking the right questions empowers the recipient, recognizes their expertise, engenders trust, shows curiosity and a desire to learn about them and their business.
In a study on the topic, Harvard Business School (HBS) researchers discovered subjects found other subjects more competent when asked for advice on a project. HBS believes this is because being asked for advice is flattering – it feels good. The idea is, they’re asking for my advice because they think I’m smart and know the answer, and I think they’re smart because I’m actually going to tell them things that will be useful and help them do the task better.
People innately want to work with those who demonstrate they can effectively understand their needs and efficiently get to the root of their business problem or opportunity. They will feel that you will require less “training”, and the whole process and relationship will run more smoothly.
So, always prepare for a meeting or presentation as you usually do, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll put the spotlight on your prospect and not only get invaluable insights and information, but will also subtly illustrate your smarts and leave your audience feeling good about the prospects of working with you.