Effective communication has two parts: speaking and listening. Sales people are notoriously good at the first part: they love the sound of their own voices. We’ve all encountered them—they just keep talking, pounding away, expecting that at some point, they will have said enough for us to find a reason to buy. Most of the time we walk away, leaving them wondering why we didn’t. They never understood what our buying motivations were. How could they? They never asked!

For communication to be complete or effective, it must include both parts—speaking and listening.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the power of questions in effective communication. Questions invite the other person to talk—which gives you the opportunity to listen. When you listen, you begin to understand; when you demonstrate that you understand, you develop trust. Trust is the basis of all lasting business relationships. (All personal relationships, too.) Thus in all people-driven businesses, it is effective communication that leads to success.

At the heart of all good questions are three components: curiosity, solid listening skills, and courage.

Curiosity

A healthy curiosity about what motivates people develops from a genuine interest in the diversity of the human experience. Having a genuine desire to know more about the diverse cultures and beliefs of others isn’t just good business sense, either—it enriches your life.

Listening Skills

Solid listening skills require hearing more than just the words. “Reflective listening,” listening by reflecting the speaker’s words back as a question (“What I heard you say, Bob, was…”), demonstrates that you are listening, which builds respect and trust. Sometimes what people don’t say is more important than what they do. If you’re not listening, you may not notice what the person speaking left out. Using phrases that draw out more information can help. For example: “Tell me more about that….” “Why is making more money important to you…?” or “Is there something else I should know about…?” “That is an interesting perspective; please tell me more ….” “Is there anything else holding you back besides money?” Learning to listen without the internal pressure of thinking about making your next point makes it easier for others to really listen to you, too.

Courage

It takes courage to ask the important and thoughtful questions that will keep your conversation moving in the right direction. Questions can engage others more deeply in the discussion and reveal their motivation for action. It takes courage to really connect with others. It takes courage to admit that you’re not connecting. If you feel you need to know more about something that comes up during your discussion, ask a question for clarification.

It takes courage to ask the “Closing Questions” and risk getting an answer you may not want. To me, though, “No” is the second best answer I hope for—far better than “maybe”! If a prospect sense that I can’t handle her rejection, she may string me along with a “maybe” or even a tentative “yes.” Sometimes I ask, “Are you really interested—or are you just being polite?”

The right questions can help you understand what your prospect really wants. Once you understand what she wants, you can help her choose to get involved with your product or company, simply because it offers her a solution or a vehicle to reach her goal.

Learning to ask questions that facilitate mutual understanding is a skill, and like any skill, you’ll need to practice it before you master it. Here are a few tips to help you on the path to mastery.

#1 Come prepared to listen.

If you ask your prospects a few well-thought-out questions at the start of any presentation, they will tell you what they need to know to get involved with your opportunity.

#2 Keep probing for better questions.

Throughout your conversation, look for questions that will provide the information you need. When you ask them, people will tell you all you need to know to have them participate in your business. “Closing” becomes easier when you already know why they’re interested and how you can help them.

#3 Become comfortable with silence.

When someone is silent and thinking, there may be a pause in the conversation. This is not necessarily an invitation to start talking! Wait. Part of listening is knowing how to not talk.

#4 Use open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions are those that do not have a simple yes or no response. They keep your prospect talking about what is important to them, which helps you develop your listening skills and keeps you focused on learning the reason why he is looking, or what he’s looking for. Focus on feelings, ideas, reasons and motivations. I call this the “Tune-In”: tune in to what people want and then help them get it.

#5 Use reflective listening.

Confirm that what you think you heard them say is accurate—that you understood their intent. This can become a closing question, even before you start your presentation. “If I understood you correctly, you’ve indicated that if you found a way to work from home and enjoy a larger income with more control over your time, you would want to get started right away, is that correct?”

#6 Keep the focus on them—not you.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When someone knows you care and can help her get what she wants, she will jump in with both feet, roll up her sleeves and get to work.

It has been said that “You can have anything you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” In network marketing that’s especially true. How do you know what other people want? Ask!

DAN CONLON, a former welder for
14 years, has been a network marketer for the past 14 years with the same
company.