Connecting The Dots: Asking Questions, Listening, And Success

Connecting The Dots: Asking Questions, Listening, And Success

The opening question in retail is “How may I help you?”

The shopper says, “I would like to try on a pair of shoes.”

“Do you have a particular style in mind?’

“Yes, I would like to try this brand of walking shoes?”

“What size would you like to try?”

“Size 8.”

The clerk brings out four pairs.

You try them on and select a pair.

The clerk asks, “May I show you some other shoes?”


“Would you like to try some inserts or socks with those shoes.  Our socks are on sale today.”

“I am not interested in the inserts, but I will take four pairs of the socks that are on sale.”

The clerk asks you if you would like to put your payment on the store credit card.

You say, “I don’t have one.”

The clerk asks, “May I sign you up today?  You save 20% on all your purchases.”

You accept the offer and pay for the shoes and socks on the store credit card.

You went to the store to buy a pair of shoes and feel as though you just got the bargains of your life.  You bought the shoes.  You spent an extra $12.00 on the socks, but you got a great price for the socks.  You saved an extra 20% on all your purchases.

By training their clerks to ask you some simple, polite questions, the store accomplished four things on a store visit for which you had come in for only one item.

  1. The store sold you a pair of shoes.
  2. The store increased the amount you spent during your visit.
  3. When you signed up for the credit card, the store collected marketing data on you for its own business and perhaps collected facts sell to its suppliers.  Although you will remain an anonymous shopper, you become a shopper who fits into a demographic and economic pattern.
  4. The store sold you on establishing a line of credit for which they make more money in interest charges than on the money the store makes in selling you goods.

Great managers use the same process for finding solutions.  These managers ask questions and learn from their employees.  At the beginning of a meeting, a manager might ask the team members, “how might we cut our costs.”

The team members begin to answer the question.

Perhaps on a flip chart or overhead projector, the manager or an assistant begins to record answers.

As the meeting proceeds, enough information goes on the list of ideas to start a process.

The manager says, “Today, we have made a good start.  I will send you an email with a list of the things that we discussed today.  When you receive the email, begin to prepare for the meeting tomorrow by writing your answers to these questions.

  1. Which of these ideas is practical for what we do as a company?
  2. On what schedule can we carry out each of these ideas?
  3. What are the risks to our business if we carry out these changes?
  4. What are the gains to our business if we carry out these changes?”

So begins the process through which great managers direct teams.  The same process would work for any department: selling, marketing, product design, finance, human resources, and so on across a company and so on throughout all of its functions.  The process is simply a series of questions that lead to solutions.

Good questions lead to listening and learning, which lead to success.

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