The Most Important Question


“What is it you’d like to have at the end of our time together today that you don’t have now?”

–  Me, in repeating the best question I ever learned to ask

…and I don’t even remember where I learned it.  I’m just thankful that I did!

Once, at the beginning of a meeting with 19 employees of a bank, I asked this question of each of them.  I thought the CEO was gonna throat-punch me because it took about 15 minutes!  At the end of the meeting, I asked all 19 whether they got _________ (their item).  One by one, they answered.  (We were about 15 for 19, by the way…)

When his turn came, he said, “I gotta tell you, Steve, I wanted to punch you for taking that time at the start, but (he looked at his team) here at the bank, we’re going to start doing this in every customer meeting we have!”

Buyers, Clients, customers — whatever we call them — are more distracted than ever before.  They’re running from one meeting to the next, just like we might be, and in none of those meetings are they likely to be the focus of the other party.  They’ve been trained to expect bad sales presentations, bad preparation, and marginal engagement on our side of the table.  So, they bring expectations to our time together.

They’re expecting us to have a slide deck.  (More on that tomorrow.)

They’re expecting us to rattle on about features and benefits, pricing, and packaging.

They’re expecting us to “pitch them.”

So, when we focus the entire conversation on the one thing(s) they want to get out of it, it’s disarming in the best possible way.

Think hard.  When is the last time you were in a conversation where the only thing that mattered to the other party was what you wanted to get out of the conversation?  (I’m taking the “under” at “never.)

When we deliver the one thing, we build relationship equity.  If we don’t deliver the one thing, and work to either fix that or acknowledge that we ain’t got what they want, we build relationship equity.  And relationship equity is where a difference gets made.


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