As a sports agent, a big part of my job was recruiting new talent. One time an agent on my team came into my office, frustrated that he hadn’t been able to connect with a player he was recruiting. He was calling him, going to his games, reaching out, but he just couldn’t lock in on the kid. After a few minutes listening, I asked my agent, “Have you asked him who’s making the decision?” My agent paused and looked around sheepishly— “No,” he said. “I can’t believe I didn’t ask that question.”
A few days later he did ask the question, and found out that the player’s parents were really the decision makers. The athlete wasn’t worried about his future agent, he just wanted to play baseball and focus on his game. Fortunately my agent was able to connect with his parents and quickly get traction, and we were lucky to represent him for several years.
I love this story because it demonstrates how crucial it is to ask questions. It can be the difference between getting the deal and not getting the deal. I always end my Game Changers podcast with “Be bold and stay curious” because asking great questions and staying curious is a game changer in business. Here are 4 reasons why:
- Discover what really matters. Asking questions is a tool to learn what really matters to someone and find out what’s important to them. And when you have this information, it helps you connect. You can empathize with them and find out what’s keeping them up at night. With that information and connection, you can figure out how your service or product can help solve their problem.
- Demonstrate your knowledge. Asking questions allows you to prove you know your stuff! As a female sports agent, I always had to assert my credibility early. A quick question about the game the night before using baseball lingo was an easy way to subtly demonstrate I understood their world. By asking questions you demonstrate what you know and you deepen the connection. This translates so well to business – if you’re pitching a restaurant client, grab the latest copy of Nation’s Restaurant News so you’re up speed on the industry; if you’re pitching a financial institution, read The Wall Street Journal regularly. It doesn’t take long to step in to their world and then use that knowledge to help deepen your relationship.
- Fix problems before they get bigger. Have you ever left a meeting and thought, “Man, I’m glad that question didn’t come up!” Well guess what? That was the one question you should have asked. We all know that eventually, that question – and underlying problem – will resurface, and it is always easier to face it earlier rather than later. Mark Twain’s quote sums it up perfectly: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning, and if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Don’t procrastinate; have the courage to speak up and ask the tough question. It shows confidence and allows you to solve the problem before it gets bigger.
- Develop a growth mindset. In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, she examines the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. When you’re curious, you’re embracing a growth mindset, and this creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
The right questions allow you to gather valuable data that creates the foundation for successful relationships. A question is a simple action, but it is also a powerful way to learn about others’ priorities and needs.
I encourage you to ask questions in all aspects of your life. You’ll be amazed at how powerful it is to be curious.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to up their game. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. She is the founder of Game Changer Performance Group, which offers training and coaching programs to help leaders unleash their potential, including: Negotiation: Maximize Your Influence, which teaches business people a framework for successful negotiating; Energy: Optimize Your Focus, which teaches people how to manage their energy to achieve focus and freedom; and High Impact: Elevate Your Power Skills, which is in development now and will supercharge your organization’s performance. Sign up to receive our newsletter, subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast, and watch her TED Talk on The Secrets to a Champion Mindset, which has been viewed more than 1 million times.