Working in the MSP space, we’re well-acquainted with strange technical issues. Whenever we’re dealing with users, we’ll occasionally receive baffling complaints or inquiries.

During one of our recent sales team meetings, John Pojeta, our VP of Business Development, told an interesting story about a prospect.

This prospect listened to the entire onboarding process and then stepped forward with an unexpected question: “All of this sounds great. What can we do on our end that would really screw this up?”

Quite honestly, I was a little jealous of the salesperson! This prospect showed a self-awareness few clients do, and swallowed his pride to ask a simple, direct, and important question.

Thinking about this encounter encouraged me to evaluate my own behaviors when I’m on the other side of the table. When I buy services, am I smart enough to put my ego aside to listen to the new perspective the expert brings? For example, when we relaunched our website, did I dictate what needed to go onto the homepage, or did I listen to see what the developer recommended?

There’s a single question that can alter the entire course of a project: “In your experience, what’s the best approach for us to take here, and what am I likely to get wrong?”

Every decision maker must be open to learning

If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get the best answers. It’s not that the expert is afraid of sharing insights, it’s that some are hesitant to overload the relationship and don’t want to appear preachy or controlling early on.

 If you bring someone new into your business, here’s how to realize their full potential by unlocking their knowledge:

  • Grant permission. You want honest feedback and an expert opinion on the best direction to take? Ask for it directly.
  • Work on your collaborating skills. You’ve asked for feedback, but now you need to be receptive to it.
  • Get examples. Examples are excellent learning tools. They’re essential for grounding the lesson in reality.
  • Use their advice. The expert’s point is always up for debate, but there’s a reason you hired them: They know more than you.
  • Keep the conversation going. The expert is relying on their past experience to generate a plan for your company. Still, nobody knows your company better than you do. As you start working together, continuously share notes on how things are progressing.
  • Work on understanding. Progress can be a scary journey. Address the potential roadblocks and concession points early on, so that you have strategies for overcoming the toughest obstacles when they inevitably appear. 

You’re surrounded by people with mountains of knowledge you don’t have — from the consultant you brought in last week, to the barista who hands you your coffee in the morning. By accepting your ignorance and committing to overcome it, you can start asking questions that will make you a better professional and leader.

Photo: kozirsky / Shutterstock

Brad Stoller

Posted by Brad Stoller

Brad Stoller is National Director of Business Development for The PT Services Group. Brad is responsible for helping prospective clients understand PT and their appointment setting capabilities through a consultative approach. Before joining The PT Services Group, Brad was a State Farm agency owner, providing insurance and financial services solutions. Over the years, he has been a serial entrepreneur, building and developing businesses in real estate and marketing.

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