What Does the Other Person Want from Me?

“What do you think your grandmother and grandfather want from you?” Lucas asked.

I was at dinner with a Brazilian friend who was visiting from Boston. His son, a third-year student at Duke University, is planning to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Lucas (not his real name) told me, “When I asked my son this question, it really bothered him. He thought and thought but had no answer. Then I told him the answer.

“Your grandfather and grandmother do not speak good English. You do not speak good Portuguese to have a decent conversation with them. All they want from you is for you to be with them once in a while. That’s it. They want you to take the time and just visit with them and sit with them.”

Lucas then said, “I asked him what he thinks his mother wants from him. He had the same vacant look. He was clueless.

“She wants you to call her from time to time. A simple call just to talk and catch up. She wants to know how you are doing. She loves you. All she wants is to talk.”

This got me thinking.

This profound story from my friend wouldn’t leave me. It had me thinking. The more I thought about it, the more applications I saw for this simple question.

“What does ____ want from me?”

Simple yet difficult to answer.

The reason it is difficult to answer is that I am so consumed with what I want. Life is all about me and my needs.

Recently, I was coaching a startup entrepreneur.

He is in the very early stages of his startup. He has built the version 1.0 product. Now he is cold calling to find those first few customers.

Our discussion centered on who is the right prospect. I asked, “Who in the companies you are calling on owns the problem?”

Then I asked, “When you finally connect with this person, how does the conversation go?”

That’s when he went into his sales pitch. Talk, talk, talk. He told me all about the problem and how he fixes it. He went on and on.

I asked, “What does the person you cold called want from you?”

That same silence and vacant look appeared on his face just like it was on Lucas’ son’s face.

What if we understood what the person we were cold calling really wanted from us? What if this connection was meant to be? A bit of destiny, if you will.

Successful entrepreneurs know how difficult it is to establish a relevant connection on a cold call. But if we knew what the person really wanted from our cold call, we would connect quickly. This is because the cold call would be about what the prospect wanted from us and not what we wanted from the prospect.

I talked to my son Nick about this idea.

Nick is calling a couple hundred people every day, cold. He told me when he started, it was all about him. Now, after six months, he told me, “Before I dial, I do my research on the person I am about to call. I try to understand their job and the pressures they are under and the problems they are dealing with as it relates to the problem I solve. I then put myself in their seat. With this understanding, I make the call and ask questions which connect more quickly with the person.”

I keep thinking about Lucas’ question.

What does ___ want from me?

My wife
My kids
My grandchildren
My sister
My in-laws
My friends
My business associates
My coaching clients

I believe this is the critical question. When this question is answered, it builds stronger, deeper, and lasting relationships.