I smiled and gently replied, “No, that’s not our focus this morning.”
Without breaking eye contact with me, he smiled tightly and continued: “Well, the reason I ask is….” and he described his concerns. They were good concerns.
As I was listening, the Little Voice in My Head shouted, “May Day! May Day! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”
Instead of building trust and his commitment to the engagement, I created an objection. (“If this engagement doesn’t address real estate loans, I won’t support it.”) Instead of strengthening my ability to understand him and lead discussion, my answer undermined me. From that point forward, in his eyes, I was playing catch up.
Note to self: He wasn’t asking about our project plan. He didn’t want information. He was signaling me.
Rewind… Run a trust-building response, starting in the same moment:
HIM: “Will this engagement address real estate loans?”
ME: “Ah, good question. Sounds like that’s an important concern for you.”
HIM: “Yes, it is….blah blah blah”
ME: “So your concern is that you want … blah blah blah.”
HIM: “Yes, because… blah blah blah.”
At that point I could …
- Ask others in the group, “What other perspectives do you have about real estate loans?”
- Say, “Here’s how we could address your concern and share options for discussion.”
- Defer, saying, “Great concern, let me think about it for a few minutes and come back to it.”
Any one of those answers increases rapport, connection, trust, and momentum.
Moral of the story: ANY time a prospect or client asks a question about something more substantive than “Would you like something to drink?,” learn first what’s behind the question:
- “What prompts you to ask?” (Or, “For what reason do you ask?”)
- “Sounds like that’s an important concern.”
- “That’s interesting. Tell me more….”
- “How do others feel about ___ ?”
- “When you say _____, what do you mean?”
Don’t be too quick to answer.Unless we understand the question or point of view behind the question, we’re more likely to give a “wrong” answer than we are to give a “right” one. Don’t be too quick to answer.