Two types of questions that will deepen your client relationships

Once you have acquired a new client, the next challenge is to create a personal connection and deepen the relationship. The right power questions will help you do this.  I like to ask what I call Passion questions and Depth questions.

Passion questions help you understand what the other person is really excited about in life. They enable you to learn what gets them up in the morning. For example, “Why do you do what you do?” is an excellent passion question. It’s simple but profound. Ask it and then be quiet—if you have the patience to allow the answer to emerge, it may surprise you.

Here are some other Passion questions you can use with clients:

  • “What in life has given you the greatest fulfillment?”
  • “What do you like most about your job?”
  • “What’s something you’ve always wanted to do…but never had the time for?”
  • “If you hadn’t gone into…(business, law, etc) what do you think you would have done?”
  • “What has been your greatest accomplishment?”
  • “What would you say has been the happiest day of your life?”
  • “You’ve achieved so much in your career—what else would you like to accomplish?”

Depth questions are questions that help you learn more about the person—his or her career, experiences, personal life, expertise, influences, and so on. The simplest depth question is, “How did you get started?” I was once at an awards dinner, and found myself talking with the CEO of WalMart USA. He had one million employees reporting to him! Did I try to show him that I was smart? Tell him all about my books? No! He was born in South America, and I simply asked, “How did you get your start? How did you get from the small town you were raised in to being CEO?” He smiled when I asked this, and talked passionately about his career and life story. The subsequent conversation lasted 45 minutes, and we connected in a very personal, intimate way. 

Other Depth questions include:

  • “If you could go back and give advice to your younger self about succeeding professionally and in life, what would you say to them?”
  • “Who have been influential mentors or role models to you?”
  • “What was the biggest turning point in your career?”
  • “What would you say was your most important developmental experience?”

Here are some other power questions that I have found useful in building trusted relationships with clients:

  1. If you sense the other person is disengaged or distracted:What’s the most important thing we should be talking about this morning?”
  2. If you have gotten a conversation off on the wrong foot entirely: “Do you mind if we start over?” (This also works beautifully if you’ve started arguing with your spouse or partner!)
  3. To get someone to reflect on their role and their effectiveness in it: “What parts of your job do you wish you could spend more time on, and which parts do you wish you could deemphasize or stop doing?”

Be bold! Remember that many of the greatest figures in history were inveterate question-askers: Socrates, Jesus, Newton, Einstein, and Drucker, just to name a few.

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