“Most people,” Steven Covey writes, “do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
We have two ears and only one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.
Ironically, we’ve been told to listen so much that many of us have—well—stopped listening to the advice.
You probably understand, at least intellectually, that you need to listen “with the intent to understand.” But what are you listening to?
From my perspective, one of the best ways to become a better listener is to ask better questions. When you get someone talking passionately about themselves and their company, it can be easier (and more interesting) to just sit back and take it in.
So, with that in mind, here are 20 examples of the types of questions I ask when meeting a new client or customer for the first time. My goal is to get them talking about themselves, their company, and their industry.
Building a strong rapport with them builds a foundation of trust between us. And in building trust, attentive listening is essential.
20 Open-Ended Rapport-Building Questions to Help You Build Better Relationships with New Clients
- What is the goal/mission of your company?
- Tell me more about your organization.
- What is the BEST thing about your organization?
- What are you most proud of?
- When it comes to your field, why you (instead of someone else)?
- Who is the “go-to” person to learn about…?
- How did you get here? Tell me about you.
- Why did you choose to do this?
- What is your biggest concern moving into the new quarter/month/year?
- What is the biggest challenge you have right now?
- Why does your organization do this?
- Why is your company the best?
- What do many people think about your company that is not (completely) true?
- How can I help you?
- How do customers (donors, etc.) find you?
- If I could give you three wishes, what would they be?
- What keeps you up at night?
- What gets you going in the morning?
- What is your company’s “why?”
- When is your team at its best?
These 20 questions will get you started—but, of course, questions are only the beginning.
It’s amazing how thoughtful questioning and attentive listening lead to mutual understanding and better, stronger business relationships. Business-to-business partnerships thrive when we just stop and take the time to listen.
Which questions do you use to spark meaningful conversation? Let me know!
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