The most important skill in prospect researching, cultivation and solicitation is the ability to listen. You are much more likely to know what is on someone’s mind when they are talking than when you are talking.
Ask Good Questions, Get Good Answers
You have the opportunity to listen when you get good at asking questions.
What is it about questions that make them so helpful?
- They require answers
- They stimulate thinking
- They give you information
- They put you in control
- They open people up
- They lead to quality listening
- They let people to persuade themselves
(With thanks to Dorothy Leeds, The 7 Powers of Questions.)
I’ve written a White Paper on Asking Questions. Download that for the full question-asking Monty.
But if you want the simplest most important lesson in asking questions, here it is.
Ask Open-Ended Questions to Start a Conversation
What’s the difference between closed-ended and open-ended questions?
Closed-ended questions don’t usually lead to a conversation and open ones do!
Sounds simple, I know, but again and again, people don’t get it right. They ask questions that don’t lead anywhere and then they start talking again.
Let’s compare the two types of questions with a couple examples. Here’s a closed-ended question for you.
Are you good at asking questions?
What’s your response? At least your initial response will be “yes” or “no.”
That’s it. It’s a question that leads you nowhere.
Closed-ended questions generally yield “yes” or “no” responses. They often begin with the words:
- “Do you…”
- “Are you…”
- “Have you…”
They are valuable to obtain simple information, but seldom lead to effective conversation.
And here’s the same question posed in a way that is open-ended.
How did you get so good at asking questions?
You’ll have one of two responses to the question posed that way. Either: “I’m not really good at asking questions,” or you might share a story about how you got to be so good at asking them.
Open-ended questions invite people to share stories and ideas with you. They lead to real conversations and begin with words like:
Just try asking someone a question that starts with one of those words and see what happens.
Advice Visits and Asking Questions
As you know, you should get to know your donors long before you ask them for capital campaign gifts.
One of the most important skills for getting to know your donors is being able to invite your donors to tell you about themselves and their ideas. How do you do that? Asking questions, of course.
Practice asking open-ended questions.
For some people, asking great questions seems to come naturally, but it’s a skill you can learn and practice all the time. Ask you partner open-ended questions. Simple ones, like:
How was your day today, honey?
Or more complicated questions, like:
What did you think of the _______?
How do you think I should handle ________?
Then stop and listen.
Try asking open-ended questions with your colleagues or your boss.
Here’s what you’ll find out…
When you ask people to share THEIR thoughts with you and you actually listen to them, they will think you are smart… super smart. And they’ll want to spend time with you.
And that goes for your donors, too.
Think back: what sort of questions have you asked your donors that really got them talking? Tell us about it in the comments.When it comes to #donorrelations, better to listen than talk. Click To Tweet
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