In my franchise sales days I had a phrase that I consistently used as an opener on my initial inquiry call with a franchise prospect. I would begin our conversation by asking, “How familiar are you with Sylvan Learning Centers?” And then, whatever their answer, whether they said “very” or “not at all,” I would move into an animated dialogue about the wonders of Sylvan.
Now this worked really well for me and I’m not complaining, but I often think now how different the conversation might have gone if I started off something like this: “So tell me, what is it that you really want in a business?” And then I’d listen really, really carefully. I might say a word or two to express that I was hearing them, but basically I’d just let them talk.
When they were completely through, I might say some words of affirmation, like “That’s great! or “You’ve obviously given that some good thought.” Then I might ask them, “Why do you want this business?” And again I would listen and listen and respond from my best place with understanding and agreement.
Then I might ask, “How will your life be different when you get this business?”
And I’d listen to the dreams of this prospect. I’d totally understand what they were looking for, where they were coming from, and what they’re hoping for — before I gave my animated speech about my business.
Imagine how that prospect would be feeling: heard and honored and clear about their own intentions for the business.
Later, I might ask, “What resources will you need to get there?”
Here, I’d be ferreting out any objections that might be standing in their way so that finally I could ask, “How can I help you get there?”
Let’s review those questions:
- What is it you really want in your business?
- Why do you want this business?
- Once you get your business, how will your life change?
- What resources do you need to get your business off the ground?
- How can I help you get there?
What do these questions do?
- They get right to the heart of the prospect, right away.
- They create a sense of intimacy right away.
- They are based on listening more than talking.
- And they open up objections right away.
That’s powerful stuff.
Now I may not use this same approach with everyone, but in my work with my personal and business clients, I do ask provocative questions early on.
I may start by asking, “What’s up with you?” But as they’re answering I’m listening really, really actively. I’m listening for how they’re saying something, what they’re not saying, and what kind of emotion I’m hearing behind the words.
I’m listening for clues as to where to go next, which might be, What’s really up about this? What else is going on here?
And then, after we’ve gotten to the basis of the issue, I might ask, “How will it feel to figure this out once and for all? What’s standing in your way? Shall we go down this road together?”
Beginning to get the picture? The form of communication used in this model is more provocative than we’re used to. It’s also clean and clear and to the point.
So remember these five empowering principles for conversation:
1. Listen more than you speak.
2. Listen really carefully and ask questions to understand what the other person is saying.
3. Then, rather than offering unsolicited advice, ask permission to share a new perspective, and remind the person that they are free to accept what works for them and throw away the rest.
4. Before sharing that view, check into your head for intellectual guidance and check into your heart to be sure your words will be accepted in the way you mean them.
5. Then speak from your very best place.
Flo Schell, EdM, is former vice president of Franchise Development for Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. and founder of Franchise Coaching Systems. She has also written a book, Stop Selling: Start Clicking, that explains her successful sales process. To learn more about the services offered by Franchise Coaching Systems, visit FloSchell.com.