It goes without saying that gatekeepers to financial success – those who can offer a high-paying job, greenlight a promotion, sign a big contract or refer new business – are more willing to work with those they know, like and trust.
According to Bob Burg, co-author of best-selling business parable "The Go-Giver," the way to build amiable, trusted relationships with these gatekeepers is to express a willingness to provide both immediate and ongoing value: an illustration you're engaging them as a partner for mutually beneficial reasons and not as a vendor for one convenient transaction.
Also consider that, as author Stephen M.R. Covey explains, trust is a process accelerator. Not only does a value-based business approach yield consistently willing collaboration, it also yields quicker collaboration that often bypasses bureaucracy and fast tracks financial results.
Let's pause to identify what we've acknowledged thus far:
Value → Trust → Efficient and Willing Collaboration → Faster Financial Benefits
That trajectory established, lets consider how to express value.
Illustrating Value With Feel-Good Questions
One excellent way to illustrate value is by authentically placing others' interests first by making them the focal point of your interactions (without, of course, allowing yourself to be treated as a doormat).
That's why Burg developed an arsenal of 10 feel-good questions that gently guide prospective collaborators to discuss topics that will make them feel positive, while simultaneously uncovering information that will help you serve them better as a trusted partner. You'd likely only ask two or three of these in a sitting, so as to avoid being investigative.
"We like to think of ourselves as logical, and we are, but human beings are also very emotionally driven," Burg says. "So when we're asked such questions, we are made to feel genuinely, not manipulatively, good about ourselves because someone has taken a true interest in us, setting the context for that know, like and trust that facilitates constructive partnerships and ultimately financial reward."
Let's dissect three of these feel-good questions and determine why they'll be effective in helping you establish value for all your professional contacts.
Note: Asking these questions is just the beginning of fruitful relationship-building. It's only effective if you listen intently and convey you're genuinely interested in the responses.
1. How did you get started in the ______ business? "This is not a particularly slick or clever question," Burg says. "It's very mundane. But it's a question people nonetheless love to answer."
That's because people often try to engineer conversations to speak about themselves, but in this instance, you're enabling them to be the star. Not only is this a positive point of difference, it's also an excellent way to learn what's important to those you're addressing. That's a key step in establishing how you could add to their life.
2. What do you enjoy most about what you do? "This question is somewhat counterintuitive because a lot of times, especially in the selling process, we're taught to immediately find a person's pain so we have an opening to come to the rescue with our products and services," Burg says.
That's a very me-centered approach and simultaneously elicits negativity from the person with whom you're interacting. By contrast, the very nature of asking a person what they enjoy about what they do elicits a feel good response, which tends to yield self satisfaction. And as the catalyst for that satisfaction, a positive perspective will likely be transferred onto you, which is another key in building rapport with someone who could be a strong business ally.
3. How would I know if someone I'm working with is someone you'd like to meet? This is the ultimate value-based question. "You can't communicate wanting to proactively make someone else's life better than that," Burg says.
A question like this not only facilitates "know, like, trust," but also provides information that helps you understand the precise areas in which this person would welcome assistance.
A Note on Context
These questions are best deployed when tailored to the specific interaction. For example, if you're speaking with a client prospect, you might instead ask, "How can I know if someone I'm speaking to is a good lead for you?"
Other cases, for example when you learn a professional contact is seeking a new job or project, might call for another permutation such as, "How can I know if someone in my network could help advance your career?"
A Note on Judgment
Remember to judge the tone of an interaction before using feel-good questions. If it's clear the other person intends to get right down to business, they may not be appropriate at all. However, in the right context and with the proper judgment, the following progression can be one of the most efficient ways to achieve your professional and financial goals.
1. Identify why and with whom you want to build a professional relationship.
2. Start building a strong foundation of "know, like, trust" by expressing a genuine interest, starting with feel-good questions that put the person's interests first.
3. Upon giving an understanding of how you can provide value, solidify that foundation with tactful follow-up and real-world engagement.
4. Rely on a strong foundation for quick and seamless business collaboration and referrals that organically earn you financial reward.
Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions – an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.