After you’ve used your Audio Logo, what you don’t do is keep talking about your business! It’s done its job. Now you can go to the next step and that is asking questions and listening. This is the most important part of the marketing conversation. You can get a whole lot further with a prospect if you put your attention on them and learn about their situation.

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After you’ve used your Audio Logo, perhaps tell a story, then start asking the prospect questions. Sometimes it’s better to forget about the Audio Logo and just start by asking questions of the prospect and use your Audio Logo later when they ask you what you do. So what questions do you ask? It really depends on the scenario. This simple but powerful technique of asking questions and listening can be used in a wide variety of situations such as:

Networking or business & professional meetings. Talking about business here is expected so it’s a perfect place to initiate marketing conversations. This is often the “hunting ground” for businesses and there are abundant opportunities to meet a wide variety of business owners who are looking to make new business connections.

Social situations. This might be a party or dinner with friends or any other social situation. This can include parent events such as the PTA and soccer or even a book or gardening club. Remember, as long as you’re affiliated, it’s easy to have these conversations. Someone asks you what you do and you’re off and running.

Stranger situations. Ever get into a conversation in a movie line or at the airport or grocery store? You start talking about something and you discover some things you have in common and you ask them what they do. The thing you have in common is the affiliation. It’s not a strong connection, but it’s not unusual for marketing conversations to happen, and cards do get exchanged. It happened to me recently at the baggage carousel in New York City.

By telephone. When someone calls you by phone, asking about your business, you are in a marketing conversation first, not a selling conversation. They ask you about your business and you turn the tables and find out more about them first. After all, how can you sell to someone if you don’t know anything about them, their problems and needs?

The questions to ask

In a business/networking situation, you first want to find out something about their business. You don’t want to jump in too quickly about questions related to your business. “So what insurance are you using for your business now?” That’s a little abrupt. Ask more general questions first and then zero in on more specific things later:

“Tell me a little about your business.”

“How did you get into your business?”

“What kind of clients do you work with?”

“Who is an ideal client for you?”

“How do your services work?”

“What kind of results do you produce for your clients?”

“What are some of your biggest challenges right now?”

What I like to do is ask these kind of questions first and really get interested in who they are and what their business is about. It’s non-threatening. I’m not using the “third degree.” It’s a relaxed conversation. I’m also discovering whether or not this person is a potential client when I ask questions more related to my business:

“What do you do to attract new business?”

“How is your business growing in this economy?”

“What are some of your goals for the coming year?”

I don’t like to ask what I call manipulative questions. That tends to corner a prospect: “If I could show you how to double your business in the next year, would you be interested?” Instead, you can use stories to get people interested in doubling their business. “A recent client was really struggling but within a year he had doubled his business.”

Now a marketing conversation never goes in exactly this order. There are things you can inject into the conversation as you are asking them questions. You might tell a story or give an example, but again, the most important part is the questions and answers. It’s actually much more important than all the things you tell about your business.

A recent workshop participant related a story. He told about a time he met someone and decided to just ask questions and listen and do nothing else. After about forty-five minutes of this, the other person had to go and he remarked, "You know Mark, you're on of the most interesting people I've ever met!" Mark hadn’t told him one single thing about himself. The fact that Mark was interested made him interesting.

Unfortunately, most of us have not developed and practiced this skill enough. We always want to jump in and one-up the other person with what we know, what we’ve done, how our business works, etc. Just listen in on most conversations and you’ll notice that nobody is listening. Everyone is talking. And if nobody is listening it’s not really a conversation, not a dialogue. It’s two independent monologs. They might as well be talking to the wall, for all the impact it’s making.

If you want to have marketing conversations that actually get you somewhere, you’d better put on your listening cap and really focus on the other person. Get intrigued, fascinated, and enthralled by this person you’re interacting with. This is what everyone wants – to be heard, to be listened to, to be treated as if they matter. And when you do this, you’ll stand out like a prince amongst paupers. People will see you as an interesting, caring, sincere person. And that opens the door to ultimately talk about your business and the services you offer.

In social situations or connecting with a stranger or someone calling you, you do very much the same. The questions might be a little different, but the listening is always the same. You’re at the initial stages of a relationship that may actually go somewhere. You don’t want to jump the gun and start blabbing about all the great services you offer in your business. That’s just a turnoff.

Your first step on the path to listening is to write out a list of the questions you might ask someone in these various situations. Use the workbook and write down an initial list of questions. You can then expand on these later. I recommend writing down a lot of questions first, and then organizing and prioritizing them. The next step is to practice them out loud. Get comfortable with them. Try them with a spouse or friend. Remember, you’re not trying to manipulate someone into doing business with you; you are initiating a relationship.

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