To Start Great Conversations, Ask Great Questions

Guest Post by David Nour

I recently attended a “40 Under 40” alumni reunion at an Atlanta Falcons pre-season game. Arthur Blank welcomed us; he is owner and chairman of the Atlanta Falcons and one of the founders of Home Depot. He then brought out Mike Gomes, who is SVP of Fan Experience. Right up my alley.

Gomes spent 20 years as a Disney VP working on guest experiences, and he talked about what the Falcons organization is doing to elevate their guest experience—for example, moving from their current home in the Georgia Dome to the Mercedes Benz stadium next door.

Then he offered to answer questions.

I’m in a room with about 75 very bright people, and recognized my chance to differentiate myself. Here’s what I asked Mike, “As you know, one of the challenges with customer experience is the experience you are NOT aware of—the people who leave mad, but never tell you. Or, getting that information after the fact when you don’t have a chance to do anything about it, like stale surveys. So what are you doing to capture as much real-time customer experience as possible, such as sentiment analysis and social media?”

The first words out of his mouth were, “That’s a great question.” This is exactly what you want!

Toward the end of the Q&A, I asked another question. Gomes had been talking business for 45 minutes by this time, so I chose a different tack: “What do you do for fun, and how do you disengage?”

The first words out of his mouth were, “Another great question! Man, this guy asks a lot of good questions.” He went on to talk about how difficult he finds it, in a 24/7 world, to disengage.

None of this was an accident. I understand the value of great questions, and work hard to generate them. Over time, I’ve identified seven types of questions that elevate business relationships.

You should ask questions that…

1. Make your relationships think, particularly if you help them challenge their status quo. Mike Gomes already knows a dozen techniques to collect all kinds of customer experience data. By asking him what he’s doing to capture real-time data, I encouraged him to think.

2. Compel your relationships to reframe a challenge or opportunity. If you do that, they associate that reframing with you.

3. Convey your credibility. Use the terminology of your domain or mention hot topics.

4. Create conversation through their open-ended structure. Offer conversation enablers, not close-ended questions that constrain conversation to yes/no answers.

5. Haven’t been asked by others in the past. Find your unique angle. Don’t ask, “What keeps you up at night?” We’ve heard it already.

6. Create forward motion. You want to move the conversation toward a relationship’s most important issues. The next steps, the next line of inquiry, that makes an individual want to know more about you.

7. Make you personable. Get to know the other person as an individual. Relationships are not between logos. The Nour Group, Inc. does not have a relationship with the Atlanta Falcons. It is David and Mike who are nurturing a connection.

If you want to stand out in a crowd and be remembered… ask more intelligent and engaging questions. Great relationships will follow.


David Nour


David Nour is the CEO of The Nour Group.  He is an advisor to senior leaders and their boards, who speaks, coaches, and educates.   David’s 10th book, Co-Create, focuses on profitable growth through innovative and strategic collaboration.  His current research, thinking, and conversations revolve around “The Future of Work” and “Curve Benders;”  15 forces that shape our future: from Relationship Strategy to Visualization, Storytelling, Shrinking Planet and Geopolitics.


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