“How do you mean?” vs. “What do you mean?”

October 14, 2009 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under implementation tips

Can changing one word in your question really make a difference?

QBS tip 12 When people share information, they tend to share fractionally. As a result, there are many opportunities in your everyday conversations to say, “Tell me more.” When interacting with best friends, saying, “Tell me more,” will generally cause people to expound on whatever the topic is that’s being discussed.

For salespeople who are forging new relationships, however, it’s a little different. Notice that the phrase, “Tell me more…” is actually a command. But, if you don’t yet have an in-depth relationship, commanding a prospective customer to “tell you more” can sound a bit presumptuous.

Instead, ask, “How do you mean?”

Try this experiment. Next time someone says or asks you something, simply respond by saying, “How do you mean?” If you button up, they will share two, three, four, or five paragraphs of additional information. That’s a pretty good return on investment in response to four words, don’t you think?

Of course, a grammarian who sits through our training will often point out that “What do you mean?” is more grammatically correct. That’s true! I’m just more focused on increasing the productivity of my conversations than conforming to grammar rules.

Here’s the difference. Asking, “What do you mean?”, generally causes people to go backwards in the conversation, by revisiting or justifying what they just said. But in sales, we’re not wanting to go backward. Rather, we want the other person to share more detail.

By asking, “How do you mean?”, you won’t have to worry about grammar. Whenever you deliver these four words, what people really hear is: “I am very interested in what you just said, can you please tell me more?”

Do people like it when you’re interested in what they have to say? Yes, absolutely!

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