Learn to Use Questions Skillfully

Questions are fundamental to helping your clients understand their needs and discover ways to address them. Your clients’ answers to your questions (or even their own questions) are more influential than your answers are. Telling them what to think is fundamentally different than them telling you what they think—the latter has so much more power. (The previous two sentences are so important that I encourage you to read them again to let the concept fully sink in. Hat tip to Socrates for coming up with his method.)

Moreover, as a relationship manager, you make your job more difficult when you don’t use enough questions because while it’s possible your clients may tell you everything you need to know without you asking questions, it’s also highly unlikely. 

Using questions in a skillful way will help you attain your goals and meet your objectives in each and every conversation you have. The bottom line is you will be more effective in your conversations and better at your job if you learn to use questions skillfully.


Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

 My thinking about my clients’ needs has evolved over time as I’ve been able to integrate different distinctions, concepts and frameworks. One of the major influences on my thinking is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy is typically depicted as a pyramid.

Maslow’s theory (first written about in his influential 1943 paper called A Theory on Human Motivation) suggested that there are innate human needs that have to be fulfilled in a certain order. If a lower level need (for example a physiological or safety need) goes unmet, like being hungry or feeling insecure, one can’t focus on higher level needs like the need for esteem and respect from others or the self-actualization of achieving one’s full potential.

Instead of solely relating to your clients as users of your products and services, consider what their needs are and how to address them. By helping to satisfy your clients’ human needs (in addition to their needs for your products and services) you will differentiate yourself from your colleagues and your competition.


Learn How to Handle Objections and Resistance

 As a relationship manager, you need to know how to be able to address your client’s objections. In many situations, dealing with objections is equally as important as providing the solution itself. 

Know that encountering resistance is normal and should be expected—not resisted by you in return. Handling resistance effectively is an important part of successful relationship management.

Psychologist Carl Jung suggested that what you resist not only persists but grows in size. Learn how to handle your client’s resistance properly and it will go away—not be in the way.  Objections are like a mirage in the desert. Once you get close to them, they disappear.