questionsWhether you are a safety manager negotiating with your boss, or a salesperson dealing with a client, Paul Cherry offered tips at the IGA meeting taken from his book, “Questions that Get Results.”

Paul is the president and founder of Performance Based Results, and has also written another book titled, “Questions that Sell.”

So we have “Answer Men” and Paul, the “Questions Man.”

Why are questions important? Questions can confront the tough stuff. Get your team focused. Motivate others to embrace change and see the bigger picture. And instill greater accountability.

Questions are also important because many employees will not volunteer what is on their minds, and many are not good active listeners. So they need to prodded.

You should also be prepared for the typical questions employees will ask you as a manager:

How’s business?
How can I help you?
How are you doing?
How are we doing?
What’s going on with the company?
What issues are you having?

Here are good questions to open a conversation:

Describe for me your process.
Walk me through the steps.
Help me understand your thoughts.
Clarify for me how you would…

These questions can serve as the basis for what is called “compare and contrast” questions:

Share with me your ideas on_______ and how it compares to what your counterparts are thinking.

Help me to understand how this approach differs from others you’ve considered in the past.

Explain to me how the project has evolved since we last spoke and what needs to happen between now and _________ to ensure you achieve the right outcomes.

Walk me through the criteria that’s most important versus least important when it comes to______________

“Dare to be dumb,” says Cherry. Remember Peter Falk as Lt Columbo:

“I’m a little confused…”
“Help me understand…”
“You said this_____ but a minute ago you said this____________”
“Tell me exactly what you mean by_____________”

9 top questions to ask when negotiating with clients, employees or bosses

1. Uncovering motivations: what and why?
“What are your concerns? What is it you want? What’s most important to you? And why is that important? Can you explain that to me?  Can you walk me through why that’s important.

2. Understanding goals, vision, and strategy.  
Elaborate on and uncover how the opportunity you and your client are discussing fits within his/her goals: “Help me understand your goals…What exactly is your vision? What’s your strategy? What implementation have you planned? What’s your plan of action to ensure that you’ll achieve your goals? What are some of the hurdles you expect to encounter along the way? How does the particular opportunity we’re discussing fit within your overall goals and objectives?

3. Alternatives.
“What other options are you looking at/weighing?  What else are you considering/pursuing.

4. Budgetary concerns.
“What are your budgetary parameters? What range are you staying within? Where’s your best case and worst case scenario? What kind of wiggle room do you have to work with?

5. Making decisions.
“Help me understand your decision-making process and criteria.

6. Time frame issues.
“What’s your time frame, and what are the steps? What benchmarks along the way will insure you meet your objectives within your time frame? What will be the benefit to you if this all comes together and on time?

7. Consequences.
“What will happen if this doesn’t work? What would be the impact on you? What are the consequences if you don’t achieve __________

8. History.
“What have you done like this in the past? What’s been your experience in looking at these types of options or opportunities in the past?

9. Feelings and perceptions.
Get your finger on your client’s emotional pulse: “How do you feel about how everything is progressing so far? What are your thought processes? What are your feelings about going into this?

Paul Cherry’s expertise is in asking questions to ring up a sale at the end of the day. But you can see how by tweaking many of his questions they can be used to open up employees about their feelings toward safety, and to open managers to reveal their thinking about your safety program and proposals.

Add some of these questions to your arsenal of sales techniques:
• “Share with me the criteria you use when you’re selecting a _____.”
• “When it comes to price, quality, service, delivery, performance, customer support, and ease of use, which matters most to you? Which matters least?”
• Say your customer cited performance as a priority: “You mentioned that performance is important to you. Would you share with me your definition of performance?”
• “So that I’ll best understand your needs, can you walk me through a situation in which your standards for performance were not met?”
• “Let’s assume you’re looking at three potential vendors who meet all your criteria (including price). How would you make your final decision?”
• “You mentioned that the most important thing for you is price. How does that compare to what engineering (manufacturing, design, production, marketing, fulfillment) thinks is most important?”
• “What’s most important to your customers?”
• “Think back to when you first chose your current product. What were your selection criteria? Based on what you know now, how would those criteria change?”
• “Think ahead to three years from now. What do you anticipate will be most important at that time — the initial price of the product? Or the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing you’re getting the necessary support long after a purchase was made?”
• “Which characteristics of this product are ‘must haves’ for you, and which are optional?”
• “The changes we’ve discussed would result in an increase in profits. What would you do with that increase in available funding?”
• “What alternatives to this problem have you considered?”
• “You have told me that your company has allocated $_____ for this product. How was that amount determined?”