Tag Archives: customer centric

Supercharge Communication: 2. Interview Inventively

Professional advisors and persuaders are surrounded by overlooked or ignored communication opportunity. One common missed opportunity involves not interviewing inventively.

Among the under-utilitzed communication techniques at professionals’ disposal are INTERVIEWING & KEY QUESTIONING. These powerful information-gathering tools involve interview questioning with the selective use of closed and open strategic questions.

That’s were the “inventively” comes in.

Supercharge Communication by continually perfecting and investing in EVERYTHING that you need to be effective at and are already good at…interview inventively and key question creatively to supercharge effective communication.

The following excerpts from Chapter 13 in “What’s Your Point” explain why continually perfecting the art of interviewing inventively is a valuable, essential investment in effective communication for professional advisors and persuaders.

#1. Questions to Open Minds and Hearts

Do you know how to ask questions to generate answers you may not have expected or realized you need?

Often, when we are sure we know all the answers, we ask questions based on our assumptions, not what individual prospects and clients want to know.

Whether you’re discussing a referral, convincing a potential client to work with you, deciding how best to help a client, or investigating a client’s negative response to advice, are you skilled enough to ask mind-opening questions?

How do you trigger client responses that provide information essential to helping the client, even if they don’t understand exactly what you need to know?

Sometimes, when interviewing clients, you are probing for opinions, observations, and concerns that prospects or clients may be unaware of themselves. What is your reaction when you encounter issues and perspectives you have not come across before? What about topics you would not normally think of inquiring about? Use your experiences to help prospects and clients understand how to help themselves.

QUIZ: Quickly identify which of the eight questions—four in the introductory paragraphs above and four in the bullet list below—are open and which are closed questions.

To unearth choices and potential pitfalls for others, professional-grade interviewing and questioning skills are essential:

  • Do your professional interviewing or information-gathering techniques need upgrading?
  • For instance, how do you deliberately use open-ended questions when gathering information?
  • Do you use closed questions when short factual answers like yes or no will move the interview along to the next significant section?
  • How do you create an effective series of open and closed questions?

Quiz Answer: The eight questions are, in order: closed, closed, open, open, closed, open, closed, open.

#2. Improving your communication powers is easier than you expect.

However, this transformation does require moving to conscious, deliberate expression in every medium.

As suggested throughout “What’s Your Point?,” this involves shifting to focused, strategic communication where results matter every time. In all cases, the more you know about your target and about your goals in talking to or emailing them, the more effective the interview and the more useful the results.

Professional advisors and persuaders have many communication tools at their disposal. They just may not realize this without training. One of the most powerful information-gathering techniques—interviewing—involves the selective use of closed and open strategic questions. Combined with listening loudly—active, respectful, engaging attentiveness—communication gets supercharged.

Do you find that there can be a lot of talking or emailing when you communicate, but not many decisions that people stick to? Your failing as an interviewer may be the weak link.

Can you automatically and seamlessly switch from open to closed questions as required? If not, you may benefit from training and practice to be a fully-professional interviewer and an effective facilitator.

#3. Strategic Question Review

(1) Closed questions elicit yes, no, or one-word “just the facts” responses.

  • Professionals who are in a hurry, or disinterested, often fall naturally into asking closed questions to gather only the facts they need for their decision making.
  • They may also intend to avoid listening to more information that they want. This just falls short of actually cutting prospects or clients off.
  • Some professionals ask a series of yes-or-no closed questions to qualify prospects. This almost one-way communication can seem abrupt and unfriendly.
  • Closed questions can change the subject, politely or otherwise, quicken the pace, or relay a sense of urgency.
  • The exact wording of closed questions is important to learn precisely what is essential. It is also necessary to avoid responses that dodge an issue.
  • In emails, these questions illicit short responses. These may reveal little about how the responder feels or what they understand.

(2) Open questions trigger information downloading, generate opinions, and unleash knowledge.

  • Thereby shifting the interviewer’s role to one of listener.
  • Open questions, which begin with what, how or why, require detailed responses or descriptions from the prospect or client.
  • To clarify a crucial issue, ask similar, but slightly different, open questions at a few stages of the interview. You may uncover differing answers that surprise even the client.
  • As with all skills, practice pays off. Have a set of open questions ready to ask when you meet with prospects and clients.
  • In emails, when you need detail, make sure you ask an open question, perhaps even two.
  • By mixing closed and open questions, the interview can become an engaging conversation or a lively collaboration.

#4. Learn as much as you can about prospects and clients before the interview.

This preparation makes your queries more natural, more logical, and more fruitful. Those being interviewed will relax and be more receptive when they understand your client-centric purpose.

Your intent must not be to take advantage, but to create the best services and achieve the best returns for prospects and clients:

  • Before you ask anything, disclose all conflicts of interest and fiduciary responsibilities to prospects or clients.
  • Explain how you’ll protect their rights, privacy, and interests during the interview. Also during the entire extreme-excellence service delivery process. This will make them feel at ease and well-served.
  • In advance, ask their permission to ask questions, so they genuinely are in control of the discussion.
  • Remind them that, just because you ask a question, they do not have to answer unless they want to—no explanation necessary.

Are you always ready for anything and never at a loss for the right question?
If not, why not?

Example of how real estate professionals could supercharge communication.

Navigating a World in Disruption

“Disruption” remains the current “hot” word—replacing “sustainable” and “innovative”—to underscore the latest “new thinking.”

Rarely is disruption defined to reveal long-term social benefits and pervasive problems attached to the 21st Century applications that the “new” concept involves.

The context for disruption varies, but unforeseen complexities and unexpected outcomes remain among the greatest challenges in each sector, industry, organization, or walk of life facing disruptive, long-term effects of the hot new approach to anything.

Where do you see yourself with respect to disruption in your profession, industry, or clients’?

You’ve noticed the obvious pattern:

  • Disruptor: Those who benefit, see disruption as a positive, modern force. Those involved in creating it, pat themselves on the back.
  • Disrupted: Those who are in the direct path of disruption lose—their earning power, way of life, standard of living, status, sense of self-worth…—so they do not celebrate disruption. They are busy attempting to replace what they’ve lost and rebuild lives.
  • Distracted by disruption: Those who do not feel they participated in creation of the disruption or were not in the path of its direct negative effects may be unaware of or have overlook challenges or benefits for them or their clients because they consider all of this to be happening to someone else.

Do you investigate disruptions that, at first glance, do not seem connected to your business or clients, but that at very least may create distractions relevant to your world?

Recently, I was invited to attend “Navigating a World in Disruption,” the 12th edition of the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ (IEFA) Toronto Global Forum. This lively, open exchange of ideas and experience brought together more than 3500 delegates and 170 speakers representing more than 65 countries—a mix of disruptors, disrupted, and those distracted by disruption.

FYI: Terrific Places to Think: The four annual IEFA Forums are by design and reputation, places that connect attendees with world leaders and with each other. IEFA declares its mission: “to facilitate agreements, offer business opportunities and provide access to unique insights from leading specialists.”

Navigating a World in Disruption

The three-day Global Forum provided opportunities for business leaders, decisions makers, government representatives, and heads of state to discuss how organizations and economies can thrive amidst intense, seemingly-escalating economic, social, and environmental transformation. Speakers across the broad topic range acknowledged that political upheaval, reactive populism, and protectionism provide charged, distracting climates for businesses. This is a challenge as they are already coping, locally and internationally, with the growing list of disruptive technology: digital transformation, cyber risk, artificial intelligence, fintech, blockchain…and the list continues.

Listening to speakers and attendees revealed practical insights for professional practices, independent business, and entrepreneurial ventures intent on successfully “Navigating a World in Disruption.” My research on disruption definitions confirmed the importance of context.

Reducing external and internal distraction is crucial for individuals and organizations intent on building momentum to take advantage of disruption or avoiding negative effects. Here’s three practical examples:

  1. Cyber-Security:
    Instead of becoming easier, maintaining cyber-security has become more challenging. Often it is the seemingly-simple issues that are most distracting. For instance, weak-password-creation habits persist. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a reality that hackers have trained their efforts on. Do your passwords and those of your employees hold up to scrutiny? These same welcomed users may inadvertently compromise security by clicking on a hacked link or visiting a malware-infested website. When employees leave, how much of your organization’s cyber knowledge leaves with or because of them?
  2. Talent Searches:
    The hiring search for specific IT skills and experience has proven less valuable than unearthing genuine desire and innate ability to learn and share. IT can be learned, but emotional intelligence (EQ) is the socially-valued talent that should be a crucial target during hiring. EQ is an important contributor on many levels from cyber-security to anti- and pro-disruption innovation, among other productivity issues.
  3. Collaboration:
    This word has become a conveniently-evasive catchall that is often used to demonstrate inclusive thinking when little may have taken place. Rarely explained or defined, collaboration frequently remains underestimated and undervalued. Collaboration does not involve only the willingness to cooperate or share, or at least talk about it. Collaboration must include communication skills like active listening, negotiation, and persuasive engagement. For individuals and groups who did not receive communication training in the 20th Century or who concentrated on 21st-Century social media, the conscious use of communication skills like these may not be automatic. The other meaning of the word—collaborating with the enemy—may also detract from its potential. The wish or intent to collaborate may not be enough to create practical, functional exchanges and commitment. Those with the knowledge and experience to facilitate collaboration may have the advantage in navigating the world of disruption.

What are your definitions of “disruption” and “collaboration”?
How prepared are you and your clients for disruption in your industry or their worlds?

LEAN Customer-Centric Thinking

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC LEAN Manufacturing: Excerpts from a conversation with Association for Manufacturing Excellence CEO Paul Kuchuris

PJW: What is LEAN Manufacturing?

AME/Kuchuris: LEAN Manufacturing is basically processes that address waste in the process. This is waste from the stand point of material waste, as well as the stand point of time, from the standpoint of money and effort. So, LEAN will go through a process of saying… Continue reading