Mastering Conversations: Guide the Talk to Success


There are six words in the English language that I believe are the six most important words to create better engagement, improve communication, and ultimately build deep connections with those people, other people that you want to serve at the highest level. Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, I'm your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. Excited today to dive deep with you, the agent leader. And as I'm going to mention in a few minutes here, also sales professionals, service professionals, anybody who's trying to lead, influence another human being, I'm happy to share with you these six powerful words that are going to create better communication, engagement, and connection. So are you ready for those six words? Here they are. The six words are, can I ask you a question? Can I ask you a question? Now, you don't have to say those six words to ask someone a question, but just think about this for a second.

If you've ever said those words, can I ask you a question? And you think about this, 99% plus of the time when you say those words, can I ask you a question? The other party says, "yes, sure, of course." And then you begin to ask them questions. So in today's podcast episode, I'm going to talk about not just those six words, I'm going to give you four reasons why this is so important, right? Asking questions at a high level, and I'm also going to give you some tangible solutions that you can take back right away to your agency to begin to improve how you ask questions, how you get greater engagement, which of course ultimately is so important. And I believe this, I believe that asking questions is the number one skill above all skills for you to learn. And when I say the number one skill to learn, I'm talking about agency leaders.

I'm talking about sales professionals, I'm talking about service professionals, right? Agency leaders, asking questions, engagement, communication, connection with those people on your team, your carrier partners, your community members, influencers, sales professionals, of course clients, future clients, centers of influence, service professionals, the clients and the people that you serve and work with, right? There's such power in asking questions. And so it works again for all three of those categories. And I do want to take a minute to mention that the second quarter of 2024, we are now open for membership in the Sitkins Group. And the start of our membership is a 90 day fast track where we get producers, the sales professionals, the producers, service professionals, as well as agency leaders, and particular the sales leaders all on the fast track in the first 90 days. So if you want to learn more about that, we continue to get great results with agencies. We're excited about the membership opportunities, and of course, we reinforce these

as well, these programs along the way, go to sitkins.com. If you go to our website, sitkins.com. Here's another note. We've just updated our website. You can learn about what we do, why we do it, and of course, learn more about how to get involved and learn more about what we do. We love to have a conversation with you to see if it's a fit for you and your agency. So I want to share that because it is for all three of those demographics, so to speak today, agency leaders, sales professionals and service professionals. And before I get into four specific reasons why this is so important and give you some context around it, I'm going to give you an overall thought on this. Here's what I believe. I believe that in today's noisy, distracted world that we live in, and we know it's noisy and distracted, I feel the same way with all the things that are going around me.

I'm sure you probably feel the same way too. I believe this, that in this crazy world, the number one gift, the best gift you can give another human being, right? You ready? Is your complete time and attention, your complete time and attention, whether it's for 30 seconds, three minutes or 30 minutes, that when you're with that person, you are with that person and you can feel it when people are truly engaged with you. And I say that because what questions do is set this part up really well. When you ask a deliberate, intentional, thoughtful question to another human being, you are saying to them again with the right heart, not saying you can't ask bad questions or questions that you were told to ask, right? But if you are doing this the right way, the other party's going to go, wow, I feel valued and I feel heard, right?

I feel valued and I feel heard, and you're a person that I like to be around. I mean, there's simple feelings of that, but they're also really, really powerful. So I want to start by saying that because I just think sometimes we miss it. We miss the boat of just be with people, just be a hundred percent present and saying these six words, can I ask you a question? Is setting the foundation for that? So why are questions so impactful? Because to me, the why is as important, if not more important than the what and the how, which we're going to talk about some of those as well today. But why are questions so impactful? Again, this is for agency leaders, sales professionals, service professionals. So make sure you've got a pen and paper. Take some notes, share this episode with others on your team and go, Hey, listen, are we doing a good job of asking questions? Because this is why it's so important. Number one is that it allows you to truly control the conversation. Now, I just talked about being felt and being heard, but just because you're allowing another party to be felt and be heard and to be understood, which is critically important, doesn't mean that you don't have control of the conversation. Because again, when you're prepared and when you're deliberate and when you're intentional and the person you're going to talk to

and you think and you're thoughtful about your questions, you truly have control of that conversation. You direct the conversation, you lead the conversation. And I want to give credit where credit is due. So I'm holding up a book right now, and I'll read it for the audio listeners of the podcast, the 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers, the book written here by Stephen Harvill, fantastic book. And then chapter eight, he talks about in one of his 21 secrets, go figure, there's 21 secrets in the book of 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers. But in secret number eight, he uses an acronym, WAIT, wait, wait, and wait stands for? Why Am I Talking? And he said, the best sellers, and by the way, when I say sellers, selling isn't just a transfer of product or service, or dollar selling is ideas, thoughts, influence, right? That's why I say agency leaders and service professionals, this is as important for you.

In many cases, it is for sales professionals. But when you think about, wait, why am I talking? He talks about the fact that we should be asking questions about 20% of the conversation and actively listening about 80% of the conversation. And I'm sure you've had this experience where maybe you've had a conversation with another person and they ask you questions and they were very thoughtful and they listened and they were present. And when you got done with that conversation, you were like, "wow, I really love that conversation." I really liked that person. What did they do? They were thoughtful, deliberate, and asked you questions. They talked about 20% of the time, and they listen 80% of the time. So what I would say with this is just be aware of this, right? Just think about your recent conversations that you've had, whether it's in person, on a video call, on a phone call at work, at home, man, I'm guilty of this.

And ask yourself, am I talking the majority of the time or am I listening the majority of the time? And even for those of you like me who need to be able to present and deliver and speak, you will have your opportunity, but don't miss this idea. And again, this value of saying, listen, I'm going to wait. Why am I talking? So keep that as an eyelid tattoo just on there or somewhere in a mirror and just ask yourself, am I doing too much talking? Number two, why this is important, I'm going to consolidate a couple ideas here together, is that number two is that it creates pain and opens new files. And these are related. I'm going to explain both. Creating pain is pretty simple. Our goal isn't to have a conversation and go, "I wonder how much pain I can cause this person," but great conversations and you ask questions.

Creating Pain allows us to get to the real issue, gets to the real issue, what's really going on? And if we just assume things or don't ask deep enough, which I'll talk more about, we don't often get to the true pain, and this is true professionally. This is true personally, right? You get a lot of head answers or high level answers that really don't get to things that we can solve. So creating pain isn't just about beating people up, so to speak. It's about really learning what's going on, really understanding the frustrations, the challenges, the difficulties that someone or a business is going through so that we ultimately can help them in some way. Otherwise, we may be trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist or we're solving the wrong problem. Because what we first asked was not a deep enough question or we didn't go deep enough.

So creating pain and in correspondence to this, it's also about opening new files. And these are certainly related. Opening new files is a concept that we talk often in our Sitkins programs to producers and leaders about opening new files. What does that mean? It means that most conversations, we have files in our brain that we pull out saying, Hey, I'm talking to this person or this organization and these are the answers I'm going to give. Or this is how the conversation almost always goes, give you a very simple example for most sales conversations in insurance. The other party thinks that we're going to want to look at their policies and get some quotes and ask them basic questions about coverages and go back and then come back with the same rigmarole. So just by being able to get deeper, deliberate, intentional, being very prepared, we can begin to ask questions where they respond something like this, wow, that's a great question. I've never really considered that, or I've never thought about that before.

You got me thinking. And that is opening new files in their brain. And that goes back to controlling the conversation. But this is why questions are so important, is we help people to think differently about the situation. And questions certainly can do that. And going back to the pain, to me, emotional pain or emotional emotion of any kind is generated through great questions. That's what questions do is they generate some form of emotion, which we know whether it's an idea, product service that people buy emotionally and they justify it intellectually. We've got to find ways to create emotion and questions certainly do that. That's number two. Number three, why are questions so important? Well, questions provide buy-in. It gets you buy-in from that person that you're communicating with. People buy, again, ideas, product services, whatever they buy for from their reasons, not yours. And so often this comes back to, I'm going to tell you about this and Let me tell you about how long we've been in business. Let me tell you what we do and Let me tell you why we're so great. Let me tell you all this stuff. And it makes us feel good sometimes. Like, oh, I just gave them two pages of our brochure about how cool we are. They must be so impressed. Probably not, right? People don't buy for your reasons. They buy for their reasons. So being

And asking questions will provide much greater buy-in. People lean in, they're part of the discussion, they're part of the conversation. And this goes back to some of the sales one-on-one, right? I mean, just the analogy of are you sitting across the table from someone or are you sitting next to them, right? When you ask questions and you're walking them through things, you are sitting next to them, whether, again, whether it's on the phone or Zoom. The analogy is that we're working together on some of this stuff, and because of that, we're getting greater buy-in if you say it, it might be true if they say it, it is true. So we want to ask questions to get them to say it. Which leads me to number four of why this is so important and questions are so important is that it creates action, questions, create action.

They lead people to a result. By the way, the action could be no, but the action could certainly be yes. And some of the things we run into in communication engagement is that sometimes we end conversations and there's no decision at all. I would rather have a no than I would a, I mean, I know we'll just kind of see what happens. So asking questions, we'll create action. And there's a lot of different ways that we could look at this, right? I mean, it's this idea of what's the next step for us in moving forward? How do you proceed? All these kinds of things are how will we proceed together? And I'm not going to get to all those questions, but this idea is when we ask them when begin to create action steps of moving forward, and there's clarity around that. I also think this that great questions, this comes back to some levels of buy-in creates improvement.

I talked about working with your team, agency leaders, talking to your team. Well, what do we want? We want improvement. What results of some of these things asking questions goes a lot further than just telling people. And by the way, it is much faster to tell someone exactly what to do than to ask them questions on how to do it. I get it. And there are certain times that you need to do that. There's a lot of variables, there's a lot of gray area in this, but I do know this. I work with a lot of agency leaders, and as a leader myself, I fall into this trap that if we get too caught up in telling people exactly what they need to do, because done it. I've been there. I know it's faster, I've experienced, and not allow them to think through the solutions you are doing them and your company a disservice because it is a major cap on growth, right?

Personal, professional growth. People stop growing because they're just told what to do, what to think, and they're not able to begin to solve their own problems. When they can solve some of their own problems, they start to realize they can solve their own problems and they begin to approach things differently versus, gosh, I wonder what this person's going to tell me to do is I wonder how we could solve this. I'll give you a really good example of this when I was part and still am actually, but when I was attending a John Maxwell leadership event years ago, there was a really good illustration of this. There was a instructor who got up and was talking about coaching. By the way, coaching is asking great questions. That's what great coaching is, asking great questions. And we did a juggling exercise. Imagine that. We were sitting at the table and there was a bunch of people in the room, and we got up and there were three juggling balls at the table.

And they said, "Hey, you pick a partner there and get up and we're going to juggle" okay, what in the heck are we doing? And the first person that went, and none of us really knew how to juggle. Maybe a couple of people did, but most of us didn't, right? So the first person would go and they would start juggling. And as the coach, your job was to tell them what to do to improve. So you'd be like, Hey, raise your hand higher. Throw the ball this way, or do one at a time, or whatever. You'd give them instructions and they were sitting there trying to listen to you and improve. And maybe there was some slight improvement, but not a lot. And here was the magic. The second time you reversed roles and the other person could only ask you questions. So you would start to go and you would struggle and go, well, tell me why you're doing that.

And you'd be like, well, why am I doing that? And tell me how you're, I don't know. How am I doing that? So they would ask a number of questions, and you as the juggler are thinking through going, why? What could I do? And the method or the improvement that we would see in the second form was incredible. So I say all of that to ask you whether you're an agency leader or a sales professional, service professional is are you asking questions to create action and results? That sometimes does take more energy effort, right? It does take more energy and effort, but when you do, it creates way longer lasting results. Or are you just telling people, here's what you need to do, here's how you do it. I mean, this happens in sales for producers as well. Oh, I've been doing this for a while.

Here's what you have to do. And that one, does that not create buy-in it often creates resistance. Oh, versus, let me think through this. In fact, just to give you a mindset from sales professionals, for producers, we believe, and we teach producers and our team to the Sitkins Group that the best insurance programs are designed by the person who's going to buy the insurance program. In fact, if you ask enough questions, they begin to design their own insurance program or plan that they ultimately buy from us. That's what happens, right? They design it. At the end of the day, it's their idea, not yours. So a big part of that is it creates actions, it creates results. So those are the four areas. And again, just as a review of this, of the four things, why is it important? Allows you to control the conversation. Number two, it creates pain, opens new files. Number three, it provides or gets greater buy-in. Number four is it creates action and or results,

Which is ultimately what we want. Now, not all questions are created equal, and I'm not going to spend a ton of time here. I could do a whole episode. We do training in depth on really asking questions that are the most impactful questions you can ask, but I'll keep this really simple. This is, again, awareness tool that you could walk out or after listening to this podcast go, I wonder how I'm doing in this area. There are bad questions and there are good questions, and I will categorize this very simply. Bad questions are typically and most often closed ended questions, closed ended questions. And this may not be the first time you've heard this, but closed ended questions are yes or no, do you, blah, blah, blah, blah. No. Have you, blah, blah, blah. Yes. Could you No, right? Yes or no? And it doesn't spur thought.

And often it's very hard to create deeper engagement on yes or no questions. And most people, quite frankly, because we do some role play in our programs, they think they're really good at asking open-ended questions until they actually watch themselves or role play with someone else. So here's what you could do, right? Again, first of all, practice this. I'm going to talk about this. So you could video yourself, record yourself audio wise, or certainly have some conversation or role play. And here's one thing you could do as you practice asking better questions. If you ever ask a closed ended questions, we do this in our programs and you're roleplaying with another human being, just have that person shout, no or yes, and right away, oh my gosh, I just ask one because I think psychologically, oh, I'm pretty good at it. But a lot of things, until we really analyze ourselves, we realize I probably do ask a lot of closed ended questions.

Now, good questions are obviously the opposite. Open-ended questions. And again, these take some thought and some practice, and you think about what would it look like? I mean, just spin some of these things. Instead of could have you just say, Hey, what has been blank, blank, blank. Oh, well, it's been this, and I'm just giving you some examples. How do you currently blank? Well, we do it like this. Or This is our current process. Why do you feel this way? Why is it that you feel this way? Well, because of this and this and this, here's one that's really easy for any of you. What frustrates you the most right now in this particular area? Or what is your greatest frustration in this area? And oh, my frustration is this and this and this and this. So people like to talk about frustrations. It's top of mind, and it's frustrating, right? People are aware of their frustration. So again, I would just say this, analyze yourself in different areas. And this is such an important exercise for any team to do. But do we ask enough open-ended questions? And I just think we take it for granted. And because we take it for granted, we miss huge

Opportunities to engage people at a much deeper level, create greater connection points. And by the way, when you ask a great question, that is only the first of many great questions you should be asking. Yes, you can have questions prepared, but when you ask a really engaging question and people began to talk about the situation, amateurs go, oh, I got it. Here's what we're going to do, right? The very first time someone answers your question, you jump on a solution or answer professionals and people that are insanely curious. This isn't just prepare. I really want to understand, help me understand more. They get a response and they go, wow, that's fascinating. That's interesting. Tell me more about that. Why is that? Could you expand on that? And then they answer again, that's interesting. And there's even these ideas of question reversal. We just want to keep going deeper and deeper and deeper.

And again, you've got to use common sense. At some point you need to reply. But it goes back to what I said at the beginning of this podcast episode. Too often we're trying to solve problems or answer questions that isn't really the root cause problem or issue. We're not. It's superficial. So we've got to continue to go deeper. By the way you want to clarify when you're asking questions, oftentimes people will give you an answer. It might be generic or might just be what you think. Or maybe you're not on the same page. Give you an example. An insurance people might say, what do you value most in your insurance program? What's most valuable to you in your insurance program, Brent? It's really our service. It's our service. Now, again, an amateur might say, oh, today is your lucky day. Our agency prides itself in service.

I mean, we've been around for a hundred years. We do a great job. Our team is amazing. We have great service, but neither one of you have defined what the heck that even means. What is service to them? What does service mean to you? So part of this is being able, just to clarify, when you say service, what do you mean by that? Help me understand, right? Well, I mean this and this. Oh, well, tell me more about that. What frustrations have you had in that area? Well, actually, we've dealt with this and this and this. Now at some point you can go, ah, I get it. I hear you. Thank you so much for sharing that information right now. You've got a greater depth of this. And by the way, if you want to keep things really simple, ask the four-year-old question or the three-year-old question, the toddler question, which is why if you ever get stuck a why? Why is that? Why? And again, not to be a jerk, it's because you're insanely curious. I want to know more. So last part I want to get to is here is questioning skill improvement. Because I said asking questions is the most important skill that you can possess. The

Six powerful words, can I ask you a question? But this does not magically happen for you to get better at it. It doesn't magically work. Too often, individuals, professionals only practice in high risk situations. What do I mean by that? High risk situations are when you're with a top client, a top future client, maybe a key community member or influencer, maybe you're having a meeting with one of your top carrier partners or whatever it is, and you're doing practice during that conversation, it's high risk practice. Not only can you lose money, you can lose credibility. So my ask of you is find areas and ways and places and times to do low risk practice. What's really weird, most people will put off low risk practice and instead do high risk practice that costs them money and credibility. They'll say, I don't need to do low risk practice.

I don't have time for low risk practice, but I do have time to say something really stupid in front of someone who's very important, and I've done it. I'm raising my hand. I've been there. Why didn't I practice or rehearse that? And a big part of this is asking questions, preparing questions, and then modifying questions. And how could I best ask that question? Of course, getting to know the person you're going to be engaging with at deeper levels so that you can start by asking better questions versus Tell me what you all do here. You should probably know that one, right? So start at a much deeper level. Also, I mentioned this already. Be aware, right? Just as you start having conversations, be aware, at the end of every conversation, give yourself a debrief. How did I do in that conversation? Was I talking too much?

Did I have the WAIT or was I talking 80% of the time? And then here's the last thing I want to hit on asking questions. Asking great questions does not need to be a solo project. Certainly individually, you need to raise your game and your skill and improve in asking questions. But here's the really cool thing. There are other people likely on your team or professionals in your industry who have practiced and worked on certain questions that have been super impactful that you might be able to learn from Borrow and Share, right? In fact, the concept that we talk at kins is about creating a question bank, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a place you deposit questions and you can review. And here's a question I ask. If you're a sales leader, have conversations with your producers, Hey, what's the best question you asked this week? Why was it impactful? What did you do? Have your team learn from it. Maybe it's a question they can use, maybe it's not, but you're learning and you're growing together, and so it's not a solo project. In fact, one of the things we just added in our community at Sit Kids, which is great, is online. Whether it's on the portal that all of our agency members have access to or now on an online, their app on their phone,

We're creating a community where one of the things on there is creating a question bank, right? So we can learn from each other and expand on these different areas, but it's super, super powerful. Listen, I know I've unpacked a lot of things here on this episode, hoping you took some notes that you can take back with you. And I'm passionate about this topic, and I want to share this topic because it fulfills our mission at the Sitkins Group to educate and empower and equip agencies to become their best version possible. And asking great questions, being great at asking questions is going to help you do just that, help you become that best version possible. As I mentioned, if you want to learn more about our membership experience, we are open now for second quarter. Those programs start off in April. Don't miss it. The next time that we run them is not going to be until August, I believe.

I'll have to look ahead, but we've got a pretty big gap after that for the summer season. So don't wait to get your agency to be great. And so learn more about that at sitkins.com or sitkins.com/experience. With that, I want to thank you for being a listener. If this podcast is adding value to your life, your agency, please give a rating review. I appreciate that. We want to truly fulfill our mission and help as many agencies as possible. And this podcast, as far as I know, doesn't cost anything financially other than your time, and we appreciate that and want to thank you for listening. With that, I wish you all the best and your success. Thanks for listening.


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