This question eliminates a lot of wasted time and energy pursuing prospective customers who keep elongating their “window shopping” rather than “contract signing”. This question also catalyzes break-through thinking in truly engaged, real-deal clientele.
Here is my One Essential Question: “What is the anticipated, expected outcome you [your company, your team] want to accomplish as a result of working with me?”
My One Essential Question qualifies prospective customers and identifies unproductive, uncommitted customers.
A little bit about me and how I use this question.
I collaborate with one-on-one coaching clients and facilitate strategy sessions with teams. I need to understand, in short order, whether they buy into the rigors of my process and methodology. I want to understand their level of commitment to completing homework and participating in interactive training sessions. My one essential question pinpoints issues and habits which impact – both positively as well as negatively – the anticipated and expected project outcome.
Now let’s talk about you.
My question brings clarity to the context of your post-meeting debriefs. How many times do you schedule yet another meeting with a decision maker who can’t make a decision? They string you along without a contract being signed. You give away free consulting or freebie trial services. My One Essential Question clarifies – for you – whether you want to continue to give these people permission to take advantage of your time and resources. In their minds, they weren’t ever going to be your customer, were they? You are drawing your professional line in the sand.
My One Essential Question brings Clarity to any conversation.
Now let’s talk about what happens with real-deal, committed and engaged customers.
When I ask my One Essential Question, there usually is dead silence as their initial response. That is good. That is exactly the initial response I want to “hear.” You see, my One Essential Question makes clients think, and think hard about the way they answer the seemingly simple question I ask.
Their first response always sounds a bit too much like corporate speak. It sounds rehearsed, instead of thoughtful and engaged. Once they launch into this type of auto-speak, my clients quickly stop themselves. They smile.
My clients will attempt a series of initial answers to my One Essential Question. They wrestle with their responses. I respect them for their efforts. Their struggle to gain clarity of purpose tells me volumes about what past efforts have gone right or wrong. The various iterations of their answers create a rich mosaic of the dynamics of their corporate culture.
You see, my One Essential Question makes my clients think differently about the impact of their own input and actions on the project outcome we want to accomplish together. They may not have thought the project through completely. They may not truly understand what they or their team or their company are attempting to achieve.
My One Essential Question is distinctive, unique and thought-provoking.
In seeking a response to my question, my clients starting thinking differently, more uniquely, more provocatively. That type of thinking is exactly how I want their brains to start working: differently than their status quo. Because at that point, my clients’ eyes light up.
As a result of my One Essential Question, they achieve their first “Aha!” breakthrough moment.
Ponder my One Essential Question. How might you incorporate it into your own professional skill set? And… here it comes….
What is the anticipated, expected outcome you want to accomplish as a result of asking my One Essential Question? 🙂
Babette N. Ten Haken is a strategist, coach, analyst, author and blogger. Her focus: the interrelationship between teams, leadership and culture in technology and manufacturing. Her Workshops and Professional Coaching Tune-Ups focus you and your teams on context, clarity and confidence in the execution of strategy. Babette’s Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.
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