Invitation from Bob:

Would you like to increase your Leadership Effectiveness X10?  You are invited to join me on Tuesday, January 30 at 12 pm ET/11 am CT/10 am MT/9 am PT for a Free “Leading with Questions” Webinar to learn how to increase your leadership effectiveness by moving from telling to asking.  Click “HERE” to register your attendance. (Your connection instructions will be sent to you)  You also have my permission to extend this invitation to your team and anyone else who would benefit!

Guest Post by Aileen Gibb, Conversationalist, Master Masteries Coach (IAC), TedX Speak, Author

Moe loved sales. The leap from selling furniture, and then advertising, to the oil industry flummoxed her for only a moment. What did this piece of weird technical equipment do? Why would any company want to buy it from her? She genuinely didn’t have a clue. So what did she do? With what we in Scotland called “brass neck” she walked into one of those prospective customer’s offices and she asked them some questions: What does this machine do? Why do you need it? What would make you buy it from me?

Moe was a natural questioner. Her whole life she had a burning curiosity to find out about people. When she joined me in our start-up coaching business, she couldn’t believe that she had stepped into a new career where she would get paid for asking questions. Questions that would help and inspire people to grow personally and professionally so that their business might flourish under their leadership.

I wasn’t nearly so bold a sales person as Moe. I did however, discover that I was a natural at what was then the emerging new profession of coaching. All I had to do was ask questions and listen deeply for what the client wanted to create in their life and work.

Together, Moe and I discovered another secret power in questions. We turned the coaching technique we learned into a sales technique. We soon had to stop prospecting for new clients as we were enjoying a near 100% ‘sales’ success rate and couldn’t take on any more projects.

Our process was based on what has become a widely used foundational tool in the world of coaching. The G.R.O.W process was developed by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues (check out the origins of the process here and is the most simple yet profoundly effective tool I’ve used for the past two decades. It consists of asking questions on a five step framework (ok the original has only four steps but my adaptation has five):

  1. Goal – what does success look like for you, your team, your business, your life?
  2. Reality – what’s really happening right now in relation to that goal – how close to it are you?
  3. Options – what options or opportunities do you see for moving towards your goal?
  4. Obstacles – having considered the above, what’s really stopping you from achieving your goal? (I like to ask a version of this question at least three times to uncover the real obstacle).
  5. Way forward – what is the next step you will take to move forward?

Whilst this is a simplified version, master questioners will quickly and naturally build on these questions to expand the conversation with their sales prospects. The secret is to hold the framework in your head and allow the questions to create space for your prospect to tell you their story, to expand on their thinking, to hear themselves talk aloud about their goals and what they’d like to make happen in their business.

Now, although I can’t guarantee this next step, nine times out of ten, when Moe and I asked questions following this framework, and when we stayed in a very committed listening mode, allowing our prospect to speak, at some point — usually around the Obstacles point in the conversation — our prospect would turn to the question back on us and ask So how can you help me and my business then?

Waiting for this question became the secret to our success. The prospect was now really ready to hear what we might offer and we had heard an expanded version of their story and were able to identify how best to connect their problems or desires with our service. At this point we were as energized as the prospect in what we could co-create to help them. And it didn’t feel like anyone had been ‘sold too’. It had instead been a future-focused conversation about possibilities and opportunities around which we could all be excited.

It takes deep listening, patience and genuine curiosity to fully understand the prospect’s situation to wait for that question. If, as a sales person, you can let go of your need to convince your prospect about your product or service, can genuinely keep asking questions to expand your prospects vision, you can truly listen for their needs and show how your offering might fulfill them.

We might all agree that these days people are tired of being ‘sold to’ – yet everyone yearns to be listened to more. GROoW questions create the space for that listening and although like most things it takes practice to shape your questions using the GROoW framework, it instills a different mindset in your sales team and builds more authentic connection with prospects and clients.

Aileen Gibb is a master coach and conversationalist, who works with mission-driven leaders and their teams around the globe, inspiring conversation cultures in organizations large and small. Her forthcoming book, Asking Great Questions: an Essential Companion for Every Leader, contains over 1500 questions and provocative statements to kick-start difference-making conversations with individuals, with teams and as a powerful self-reflection tool for leaders. Once a year she invites a diverse group of leaders into a week-long intensive to practice the arts of listening, questioning and conversation as a leadership edge. Send her an email to join her next sabbatical-like, life enhancing week @ or connect with her on her website:


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