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I do not know of another business thinker, indeed another person, who asks better questions than Andrew Sobel does and that is a talent he has developed over several decades. Each of his three previously published books was written in direct response to an especially serious business question and his latest book is no exception: How to build relationships, win new business, and influence others? Sobel and co-author Jerold Panas offer and discuss 337 "essential" questions that can obtain information that will help to achieve these three separate but interdependent objectives.

How so "interdependent"? If an organization does not build and constantly strengthen relationships with everyone involved in the given enterprise, it will lose its most valuable employees, clients, and allies and, for the same reasons, fail to replace them. True, this company "influences others" but in all he wrong ways.

Sobel and Panas organize their material within 35 chapters that contain a total of 42 questions (five in Chapter 35) within a narrative significantly enhanced by anecdotes that illustrate the power of questions that can either strengthen or weaken a relationship, increase or reduce the chances of achieving a desired objective. Then 293 additional "Power" questions are provided in the final section, "Not Just for Sunday."

I really appreciate how cleverly Sobel and Panas frame their material in a reader-friendly fashion. For example, they pose a question and then suggest how and when to use that question most effectively. One of my personal favorites is "Is this the best you can do?" apparently one that many others such as Steve Jobs and Henry Kissinger have frequently posed. Sobel and Panas note that use of this question should be reserved for occasions "when it is especially desirable for someone to do their very best and push themselves to their strained and stretched limits." I agree. They then suggest when specifically to use the question and alternative versions of the question, and alternative versions of it. This is a clever format repeated throughout the book. Here are three other "Power Questions" that caught my eye:

"What did you learn from that?" (Chapter 16)
Comment: Every setback (don't call it a failure) should be a valuable learning opportunity.

"Can we start over?" (Chapter 8)
Comment: What isn't working, what isn't happening, will reveal what will. The Lakota suggest never feeding a dead horse.

"What do you wish you could do more of?"
Comment: The best career advice I ever encountered was offered by Teresa Amabile during a commencement address at Stanford. In effect, do what you love (and are passionate about) because you will then be doing what you do best. People do not necessarily have to change a position to do what they do best and love most.

Some of the power questions work best in a career situation, others in a personal situation, and still others in both. Think of the 337 questions that Sobel and Panas pose and discuss as a base, a foundation, on which to build skills first exemplified by Socrates (c. 469 BC - 399 BC).

To those who are about to read this brilliant book, I presume to suggest they keep this question in mind: In which situations will asking the right questions be most important to me? For some people, this may well be the most valuable book on building healthy relationships that they will ever read...but only IF they continuously apply effectively what they have learned.
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on 22 August 2013
I came across this book on the coffee table of my nephew, where it seemed to be still in prestine condition, but after a very quick look I decided to buy it. It has a brilliant thread and has topped up my portfolio of questions - it is not a light after dinner read but if you are into intensive development of key people (which I am) it is a super extra string to your bow, my copy quickly looked a little battered and used....and that is testament to a good buy.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 September 2012
Ivor Tiefenbrun of Linn Products often talks of 'Real Reality'. What he means is there seems to be a reality that we would wish and a REAL reality - the actual fact of a situation, no furry edges and delusion.

Andrew Sobel is a rare writer, presenter, and workshop host, that deals in 'Real Reality'. In the 'Real World', if you don't have relationships you don't have big sales and/or margins - people buy in spite of you; because your price is so low you beat everyone. If you want to establish fair margins, keep clients and customers, have enjoyable working sessions with clients, and generally enjoy your business life - you need to be an expert on building and maintaining business relationships.

Andrew is unusual - He's an market specialist in this area alone. That's hard to do and why there are so few people as well developed in Business Relationships as Andrew - because its a very hard subject to sell to Training Managers and Boards of Directors. I know because I've struggled through many meetings try to do that very thing. Most people think they are great at relationships - and in turn, they hire people who are great as well. Not True. If it were true then our relationships with our suppliers and collaborators would be great - after all, they all believe they are great relationship builders as well.

After years of talking about this and selling programs to senior management, (mostly frustrating meetings where management and trainers talk in military terms about 'sales attack tactics' and 'controlling the sales process'), I realised you might as well be asking someone if they are good in bed? And you know what? They'd all say they were - its just the other person that's the problem. We are in denial about how important business realationship are. (I used to work for a huge technology business in the UK - why did we always have spare tickets to every major sporting event if we had good relationships with Board Directors?)

Try this then for a start - if you don't know your major client's wife (or husband's) name, their birthday, their children's names and ages, where they live, their ambitions (say 2 of them) and their most important interests outside of work - you don't know your client very well. (And don't now go and ask them all that stuff because you'll really hack them off and they will get very defensive - rightly so because your motives are all wrong as well!)

All major, profitable, sales are built upon good relationships. No relationship - either no sale or no margin. You need to stay outside the denial zone and understand this stuff if you are going to get anywhere near the top in business.

Andrew Sobel is a great guy to follow because he's stuck with the subject for nearly twenty years now. The only other guy I know like that is Charles Greene, so you might like to buy and try the above book and match it up with Charles Greene's new book The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust Sobel and Greene are the experts in this field, (which I worked in a lot ten years ago). Trust me I did the research to find anyone who works in this field and use their material - these two were the best (AND you can email both of them and get great answers to your questions)
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on 11 April 2013
A MUST read for all professionals, the questions open doors and opportunities. Also very easy to read, full of anecdotes and examples
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on 5 November 2015
Great book. Very helpful and practical tips.
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on 15 January 2013
This book is a fun read, to be sure. I wouldn't recommend it as a 'self-help' volume in any way, however. Quite frankly, a lot of the questions are just bollocks! Fun though.
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on 25 August 2013
It doesn't talk about building relationship or about power questions you should ask, instead of that it is about questions you should consider before attending to business.
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