I have already covered the area of finding out what is important to people. Another great thing about asking people what’s important to them is that it tells us what their strategy is for making a decision. For everything that we do in life, we have a strategy, a way of thinking about things or making decisions. Knowing someone’s decision strategy for a given circumstance will help you redirect the conversation towards things that match their particular strategy. So, for instance, when talking to somebody about buying a television, if you ask what’s important to them about a television or what they look for in a television, they are going to reply with their buying decision strategy. They may tell you about the style, the size, the make and the colour – features that are important to them. This then means you can preselect particular televisions that match their criteria before replying with what you could offer them by way of a television. They are far more likely to say yes to one of your televisions because you have presented them with only relevant ones. Had you offered up options outside of their criteria, you could have caused confusion, the feeling that you don’t understand what they really need, resulting in them going away “to think about it”.
Most people in sales would probably say “So what sort of television are you looking for”. This probably won’t get as detailed and useful an answer as “Could I ask you what is most important to you about the television you get?”
This isn’t just restricted to business life, of course; it can be used in your everyday social life as well. For instance, very often I like to go out on weekends and look at cars for sale.
My wife wouldn’t see this as a very exciting trip out on a Sunday afternoon. However, what I do know is that she enjoys it when we go for a drive in the country and perhaps stop off and get a coffee somewhere. I can use this knowledge to get her on board with the idea of going out and looking at cars by simply saying, “Hey, why don’t we go out for a drive in the country? We could grab a coffee, have a nice little drive around and perhaps while we are out, I might just pop into a car dealer showroom as well. What do you think?” I am more likely to get a yes to that suggestion than to “Hey, why don’t we go out and have a look around some car dealers this afternoon?” There is nothing in that statement that matches anything my wife would like to do, or that is important to her.
Once you know what’s important to people, and you know their strategy for making decisions in a given situation, you can use that to help influence the results you get from your conversations and communication.
This isn’t about coercing people or forcing people against their will to do anything. What you are doing is pointing out that, in most cases, the things that you would like to do, contain elements of what they like as well. You highlight the things that they like so they can see there are benefits for them as well.
This is an edited extract from How to Talk to Absolutely Anyone: Confident Communication in Every Situation by Mark Rhodes, published by Capstone