No matter why we pick up a phone – to close a sale, book a meeting, connect with a customer or resolve a service issue – being able to inspire a conversation holds tremendous value. It is through conversation that we can:
*hear opinions, thoughts and feelings;
*establish rapport and build relationship;
*stimulate discussion; and
Open-ended questions inspire conversation. Using the words who, what, when, where, how or why at the beginning of every question jumpstarts a conversation and allows us to learn more about our customer, our prospect, our provider.
However, for a reason I have yet to discover (and if you know where I can find out, please let me know) human beings have a natural inclination to ask close-ended questions, the ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. While close-ended questions are valuable in certain situations, when our aim is to build relationship and gather information, they are, well … useless.
“So, can we schedule a meeting to continue our discussion?” “No.”
“Are you able to finalize that order with me today?” “No.”
“May I speak to your supervisor?” “No.”
In each of these scenarios, the person asking the question doesn’t learn anything. Instead they create a conversational dead end.
But for many of us, creating open-ended questions during a conversation is not straightforward or simple. We know we want to ask them, but once the conversation is in full swing, we stay in our close-ended comfort zone.
Enter the power of “or”.
“So, can we schedule a meeting to continue our discussion, or ….”
“Are you able to finalize that order with me today, or … .”
“May I speak to your supervisor, or … .”
This works because we are all inclined to finish thoughts, to complete sentences. “Or” serves as an invitation to speak and the majority of the time, the invitation is accepted.
“A meeting doesn’t work for me this month, but let’s schedule a phone conference for early February.”
“I need a P.O. number to finalize the order and I should have that by tomorrow morning.”
“My supervisor is unavailable at the moment.”
While I do believe it is important to use a wide variety of open-ended questions (more on this in future posts), using the word “or” gives you the power to inspire conversation with minimal effort.