Powerful Questions that GrowYour Professional-Service Business

My pharmacist client and I are working together to expand his two-year-old pharmacy. The notes from a recent session lay out foundational principles and skills that will grow any professional-service business where relationship-building is key, such as healthcare, insurance, real estate, and so on.

Yesterday we laid out my client’s 2020 vision. He wants to grow his locally-based early-stage pharmacy by 40% this year. This is totally do-able. We elicited goals related to this vision. We tailored his goals so they are now specific and measurable.

Then we imagined specific scenarios and conversations that are going to support him in accomplishing his vision.

Our overall strategy is to increase connection and perceived value with individual clients and referral partners. A key tactic is coaching conversations.

Coaching conversations are the secret sauce for professional service growth. They require the professional to re-engineer typical tell-and-sell conversations into a format that is way more powerful.

The conversations outlined below can be extended into all aspects of business including messaging, marketing communications and sales. Interactions can take place both in-person and online.

It’s the design of the interactions that matters.

Current reality: 53 prescriptions filled per day.

Future vision: By December 2020, fill at least 80 prescriptions per day. Hire another pharmacist. Have the option to take Fridays off.

Strategic Question: “What needs to happen different, better, more, or less, to increase business by 40% by December 2020?”


1. Increase number of connections with referral partners who also serve seniors by [x %] or [x number of visits].

2. Increase quality of conversations with referral partners who also serve seniors [what will be some concrete signs that quality is increasing? eg emotional tone, smiles, actual referrals].

3. Increase number of conversations with individual seniors about how their pharmacy care has been going in general.

4. Increase quality of conversations with individual seniors.

Qualitative goal: Increase emotional connection and perception of value. When connection and perceived value increases, people share their positive experience with your business, reputation builds, and your business grows. This positive energy can then be easily leveraged in a whole variety of ways with little additional effort via marketing and PR.

General shifts required: View the world from the other’s perspective. Don’t give in to the urge to mention your business too early, or ask them to switch to you. This keeps the focus on you — when it should really be on them. Put yourself in their shoes. Feel and see the world as they see it. Avoid telling and selling.

Set up each conversation so that they have the opportunity to tell you…that thing you really had the urge to tell them. e.g. You want them to say… “it totally makes sense to switch to your pharmacy!”

Coaching Questions: Below are some concrete words and phrases that increase connection and move people forward into a differentfuture…

Open questions (i.e. where they can’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’)

  1. Tell me more about x [issue, perception, story, relationship etc.]
  2. What was that like? [what did you feel, think, came to mind etc.]
  3. What else happened? [difficulty, challenge, bad feeling, good feeling etc.]
  4. How would you like things to go instead of that?

Mutual story-telling

Insert yourselves into each other’s life stories by asking questions then comparing notes and perceptions.

NB. Of course you may not have much time when talking with a potential client over the counter! But the ideas below can be built in over time to strengthen connection, perceived value, and reputation.

Sample conversation with individual senior:

· What’s it like being a senior seeking healthcare these days?

· Are you okay with the care you’ve been receiving?

· What do you like / not like? What is helpful / not helpful? Why?

· Re that other pharmacy / doctor / healthcare provider…

· How do you wish it could have gone instead?

· What difference would that make to you?

· I’m wondering if I could tell you a [success] story re a similar situation I dealt with last week but had a different outcome. “Sure”.

Tell your own story that worked well with another patient.

· Ask “what do you think about that?”

· “Would you be interested to have things work out that way for you?”

The “Difference” Question

This extremely powerful question allows you to help the potential client paint a concrete picture in their mind of the outcome they desire — with you as a contributor to their own success story — since you are uniquely equipped to generate these positive changes in their lives. Even if they don’t make a decision immediately, they will ponder this scenario later.

· “What difference would that [better outcome] make for you?

· For your spouse? In your family? etc.

· How would that feel to have that happen?

· What then?

· What else?

Referral Partners — Seniors. Every professional should have a marketing plan not only for clients, but also for referral partners. Coaching conversations build relationships not only with potential clients, but also with referral partners.

As you meet with a potential referral partner, your goal is to imagine together how you can collaborate to serve your clients better. You imagine a current scenario that may not actually be ideal. Then you imagine together the improved scenario you can create together.

Map out the questions you can ask them in order to create the new scenario together.

Sample conversation with potential referral partner…

Have you ever had a patient / client who: has x condition, issue, problem, unmet need etc.

How do you usually work with a client like that? (elicit their stories). Probe to find out how things typically go on their end.

Could I share a [success] story with you about one of our patients who had a similar condition, but we helped get to a different outcome?

What would be some ways we could help our folks even better? e.g. a different way of working with their ….Arthritis. Wound healing. Diabetes. Brain health. Pain.

Together you educate each other about how you work, building out a mutual referral process that is going to work well for both of you. For example…

· How do you think things should go instead?

· What should we do next?

· What would happen then?

· What would I be doing?

· What would you be doing?

· How could we ensure no snags?

· How could we improve things even more?

· How else might we help each other grow?

· Who else do you know who could benefit from this type of process / outcome?

The ideas outlined above are concrete steps that will take you deeper with clients and partners in a way that grows your business.

Let me know how it goes! lois at ready2grow dot com.