Monday, February 16, 2009

How to Talk to an Executive: Ask Big Picture Questions

When you have an opportunity talk to an executive or anyone of importance for that matter, it is better to ask one good, big picture question and then sit back and listen, than it is to tell them about the details of your day.

Think about it, no one cares about you the way you do. And most people care more about themselves than about you. So people take great interest in people who ask about them. This applies to dealing with pretty much any one….it is better to be interested than interesting.

So when you have a moment with the CEO or the SVP of Marketing, ask a single question about the business…what is challenging or how the latest move by your competitor is going to impact your company.

Here are some examples:

Question: How have our customer reacted to our recent price increase? Have they complained or left?

Question: Has the initial reaction to our new marketing campaign been positive?

Question: I am excited about our new product line…have sales been what we expected?

Hopefully these examples will prompt you to come up with better questions specific to your situation. The key is to be genuinely interested in the state and future of the business and be actively engaged in finding out how it is going?

Ask your question and then listen actively. Be interested! Sometimes you will have an opening for a follow-up question and sometimes the executive will ask you about your opinion on the matter. Be prepared for a brief, but specific response to the executive’s question. Have an opinion.

If you ask the question, how have our customers reacted to our recent price increase? Have they complained or left? The executive will give you an answer and may ask you, what is your experience with the customer on this? Be prepared to offer an answer. Perhaps you could say, “Well, I don’t talk to customer directly in operations, but my friends in customer service are telling me X, Y, and Z…….and I do seem to be responding to more requests regarding pricing exception for some customers.”

The point of having a response ready is to demonstrate you are interested and have an opinion on the matter.

Once you have asked your question, listened actively and responded briefly to any follow-up questions remember to be the one who ends of conversation with a quick, “OK, then. Thanks for your time. I’ll get you.”
Let the executive go.

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