Would It Be Helpful If I…

A friend recently told me about a very successful consultant who ends his pitches with the question: “Would it be helpful if I…” The words that replace the ellipses vary based on the potential client.

Apparently this question is incredibly successful at prolonging the conversation, and I wanted to dig a little into why that is. Here are my thoughts:

  • It’s a selfless question, even if the end result benefits the consultant. The nature of the question is that I’m offering to do something for you–I’m trying to help, or at least see what is helpful.
  • We’re inundated with people giving us more work, more tasks, and more duties that it’s incredibly refreshing to hear someone say that they want to be the one to do something. Truly, I get so many emails saying, “Can I have 10 minutes of your time for a call”–it’s the first I’ve ever heard of this person, and they’re already asking asking me to do something for them.
  • It allows the recipient to feel free to say no, which in a way increases the chances they’ll say yes.

I don’t think the question alone is enough; you also need to know enough about the other person to offer something they would legitimately consider. It could be as simple as, “Would it be helpful if I emailed you about this later?”, but if they’re someone who prefers to talk on the phone, they probably won’t say yes.

Also, while the question is intended for use in sales, I think it works great when navigating friendships, relationships, and other social interactions. Sometimes there’s something I want to do for someone else, but I don’t really know if that’s what they want. So why not ask, “Would it be helpful if I…” to find out?

What do you think about this question?

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