Susie Tomenchok on Asking the Right Questions

Hosted By
Alana Muller
Alana Muller

CEO & Founder
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Podcast Guest
Susie Tomenchok headshot
Susie Tomenchok

Inturri Consulting

Episode Summary

Susie Tomenchok, president of Inturri Consulting and author of “The Art of Everyday Negotiation Without Manipulation,” shares the importance of being a good listener and how thinking of your audience first will create a natural conversation starter. “So many people want techniques or strategies on how to network, but it's all about just thinking of the person in mind and what their interests are. Thinking of them first.”


Alana Muller:    Welcome to, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders, one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they've found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning into another episode.

Hello, and welcome back to Podcast. So glad to have you with us today. I am especially excited to welcome today's guest, Susie Tomenchok. Someone I deeply admire, who I've gotten to know over the past year. And though, frankly, we've only been acquainted for a short time, I think of her as an influencer, a personal champion, and a dear friend. Susie is a keynote speaker, a team facilitator, executive coach, MC negotiation guru, and the president of Inturri Consulting, through which she helps executives to win more frequently. She is also the author of a wonderful book, The Art of Everyday Negotiation Without Manipulation. Please join me in welcoming my friend, Susie Tomenchok, to Podcast. Susie, welcome.

Susie Tomenchok:    Thank you. I'm just honored to be here. And thank you for that. What a nice introduction. Thank you.

Alana Muller:    I'm just giddy to have you on the show. I want you to start by sharing an overview of your work with Inturri, and on The Art of Everyday Negotiation with our listeners.

Susie Tomenchok:    Sure, sure. Let me just back up a little and just tell you where I came from, because I think it's all relevant. I worked for a Fortune 20 company, a big company, Comcast, as part of my journey and I did big deals. And just really, I think I started doing them because honestly, at the time, they didn't have anybody better to do them. So I started doing them and I had great success. And so they kept putting me more and more in front of people like Boeing and Biocom and Discovery and doing these big technology deals. And along the way, I have three girls they're now in their 20s. And just seeing, as a corporate executive, seeing negotiation outside of the boardroom, if you will. Seeing it in the hallways with my peers and seeing it with my girls as they were growing up, young children, and seeing how they watched me. And I saw it seeping out.

So then I left, went to a startup, did some consulting myself. And a few years ago, just decided that I wanted to go at it on my own, really share this knowledge and this love for negotiation. But also, just work with executives to help be their silent partner in making them more confident and better. Helping them by seeing their situation and their opportunities from a different perspective so that they can really capitalize, if you will.

Alana Muller:    I love that. I love that. So at Inturri, is that where you're focused? Are you working directly one on one with executives or is it more at a corporate level? What would you say?

Susie Tomenchok:    I work with a limited amount of executives, and when I do, I work with their team as well. So I'm kind of an extension of that leader, so that I have another view that I can lend to them. And I can also help them ... I'm finding that in this time, where we're really trying to figure out this new normal ... as we overuse that term. That helping people be better at what they're doing and being able to see things from a lot of different angles, there's a lot more focus on the holistic person. And that takes a lot of, just different perspectives.

And so I work ... I do. I work with teams. I like to be engaged with a team over a longer amount of time, because I feel like the more you invest ... I'm using all these banking terms. Capitalizing and investing, the more that you invest in the time with me, the more context I have and the greater value that I can give to the organization or to the leaders. So I love it.

Alana Muller:    Well, and I love how you self-describe as being that extra set of eyes and ears. Where you have both the external perspective, an outsider's glance inside, but then you can talk more intimately within the four walls of the organization. So I just think that's great. And then your amazing abilities and insights on negotiation. Talk a little bit about The Art of Everyday Negotiation and where the idea came from.

You talked a little bit about doing these big deals when you're with Comcast. And I know that in the book, you even referenced some other phenomenal negotiation books that you and I have had the chance to talk about over the past year or so. But talk a little bit about why you wrote the book and what you think people will get out of it.

Susie Tomenchok:    Yeah. I think we avoid ... we all have a different relationship with negotiation, just based on our experience. And a lot of times it's not something that we use liberally, even as a term. I was working with somebody last week that was like, just being able to use it in a ... like when you're talking about priorities in the business. Let's negotiate our priorities. What that does, it's telling the other party, I care about your interests. Let's, everybody, put everything on the table. So just using that.

So I really do believe that when you think about the strategies and the techniques in negotiation, like practicing silence, knowing exactly ... defining your ask. Framing, your ask. Having the end in mind. Considering the interest around the tables. Those are all things that make us better humans, too.

Alana Muller:    You're so right. Well, and so along those lines, I mean, just like you described, people don't like to use the word negotiation. In my life, people don't like to use the word “networking,” right? It's one of those dirty words. It's one of those things where people just almost shudder at the idea of networking, and yet it's all about relationships. And you've talked about that in your book. You talk about that when you think about how to engage with others. So from that vantage point, how do you actively manage your network?

Susie Tomenchok:    Oh, that's a good one. I think a lot of that comes naturally, just in terms of who I am. Because people will be like, “gosh, you know everybody.” I just think around how to connect. So when I talk to people about that ... because I think that is so important. And so many people want techniques or strategies on how to network, but it's all about just thinking of the person in mind and what their interests are. Thinking of them first.

So when I think of networking, I always think about what can I give to that other person? And when you have that abundance mindset, how you can help somebody else, that just invites the conversation. It doesn't feel icky, and you do it from a place of abundance.

Alana Muller:    Yes. I totally agree with that. And unfortunately, so much of our lives have become, what have you done for me lately? And I think the best networkers, the best relationship builders don't really care about, “what have you done for me lately?” It's “What can I do to help you?” And that's what you're describing. That's what you're describing. I love that. I love that.

One of the stories you tell in your book, in fact, you open the book with the story about your mom, and how she said to you that you're an incredible listener. And so I want to poke at that a little bit. Talk about your listening skills. And is that something that you actively cultivated or something you were born with? And how have those listening skills served you in your efforts to build better relationships?

Susie Tomenchok:    Gosh, that's such a good question. I do remember when my mom would say that to me all the time as a young kid, I'd be like, I don't want to be a good listener. I want to be smart. Can you give me something else? Listening skills, is that really something that is of value? And I didn't really say anything to my mom. I was just like, well, thank you. But then, big eye roll to myself. But I did as I became a leader in an organization, and as a negotiator, there is nothing more powerful than being a good listener. And I think we underestimate how much work goes into it. I'm an executive coach, I'm certified. And I always tell people, I was a corporate executive for a lot of years, more than 10. And then I went to coaching school. And then I went to the workshops. And I still have to work on my listening skills. I still have to be intentional about it.

So it's not a one-and-done, you read the manual and you're automatically a great listener. And I think that just thinking about it like that makes us be more intentional about it. Inserting silence is not just making the other person uncomfortable. It's really listening and understanding what their needs are, so that you can make the right choices of your next move. And it's underestimated, but I think it's one of the most important skills. And I'm grateful that I'm a good listener, naturally, but it was also not an easy act. It's just not something that is just automatic.

Alana Muller:    And I know you know this, and when people learn to be good facilitators, or really even just good managers, good trainers, there's often the conversation about, sit in the silence, and how uncomfortable that is for everybody. But how incredibly effective it is. And a very small moment of silence can feel so full and lengthy. And yet it's just a few moments. Just a few moments.

And so I think you're right. I think that there is power in that, really for both parties.

Susie Tomenchok:    I totally agree. And I had somebody in my course recently say to me, awkward silence, I really understood it when I watched somebody else live it. And that's so ... because you get awkward, like you said. It becomes awkward in your mind, but it can get even more awkward. It is like, this tension. But if you, again, if you switch your mindset around, I really want to understand what they're thinking, or I want to really understand their perspective, that can make the awkwardness be more meaningful, so that you don't want to opt out of it quickly.

Alana Muller:    Yeah. I mean, I think that intentionality is great. I know for myself, I have a tendency to try to fill the time, or fill the space. And even if we can recognize that upfront, that it does feel awkward and uncomfortable, but understand that on the back end, how great that can be, I think we can get something from that. So I really appreciate that.

So with that in mind, how do you make connections mutually beneficial? You talked about the give, or the gift of listening to other people. Of allowing them to share their perspective, of showing how much you value their perspective. How do you show that mutual appreciation?

Susie Tomenchok:    The other thing that listening does ... so going back to that - is when you ask a question and then you listen, what you're saying is, “I value you.” It's more important about you. And that ability, like sometimes when I'm coaching people and I ask a question, and the person really spends some time being thoughtful about their response. What I'm doing is giving them the ability to process and think about something that they could have a discovery around. Sometimes they'll be like, “you're the best thing ever.” And really what happened was, I just happened to stumble upon the question that they needed to be asked, and they needed to click in here. Because we're always so here.

Alana Muller:    Yes.

Susie Tomenchok:    So if we can give that to somebody else and give them the time, they feel that connection. You're creating that connection when you give that to them. And we often think it's about all these things I have to say to you to get you to like me. But it's really about asking questions. Think about how the people you love to be around ... one of my best friends I love, is somebody that asks me lots of questions.

Alana Muller:    Well, because they show that they care. They want to know. That's a great way to connect with people. So, great example. Great example. One of the many lessons that your book conveys that really stuck with me is you said something like this ... this is kind of a quotation, but I am generalizing it. You said something like, you realized that your skills seeped into your personal life. You used the best practices that you had at the store, while on vacation, with friends. And most importantly, in everyday life as an executive in a corporate environment.

Will you share a little bit more about the development of those skills? And how you were able to leverage them to improve outcomes for yourself in your relationships in every part of your life?

Susie Tomenchok:    Yeah. Sometimes it's just being aware and having an awareness of what's going on around you. A couple stories come to mind, as you said. That one is ... I talk about the Target story in my book. Going to the store, Target, with my three children. And how they learned the art of, who has the most relationship equity to present the thing that they all wanted to take home? When was the best timing to approach me after my shopping was done? What was going to be the counter? What was the other thing that they were going to put in front of me? I never ever saw it happening around me. I didn't suspect it of them, to be honest. But they knew these things, that just being thoughtful around, what are the needs of that ... what they were doing was thinking about my needs. Yes, they were leveraging what they wanted to get that, but that was one thing.

And the other story is just my peer, and the way that he would ask for things. And that the management, when any decision was made about him or I, the meeting before they met with us, they would always consider his interests because he always pushed. And I was always, as I say, the path of least resistance. So they'd always go, well, what is Dean going to say? What is Dean going to need? Did they say, Susie's going to say, no, I want that office, or I want more money. No, they knew that Susie would just say, thank you very much.

And so just understanding that even when you advocate for yourself and you don't get what you asked for, you're still putting it out there. That you're putting your interests out there and you're allowing them to at least consider you. So just understanding when that happens around you and not just allowing it to happen to you.

Alana Muller:    Yes. I think that makes so much sense. And that notion of anticipating what's coming and being prepared for that. I think there's something to be said for that. It's almost an intangible, important quality. So that's great.

Susie Tomenchok:    Totally. I think preparation, even for our conversation, even if it's just a few minutes to think about what is the best outcome for both of us? There's so much power in that. But again, we're so overscheduled that we just jump in and figure it out along the way. But to your point, just taking that moment to prepare.

Alana Muller:    Oh yeah.

Susie Tomenchok:    And have intention.

Alana Muller:    In fact, I talk about this a lot when I'm training on the art of networking. And that is, you don't have to spend 15 minutes, not even 10 minutes, but a good three to five minutes preparing for a networking interaction even if you know the person, can really make the difference of an intentional, effective discussion versus something that goes nowhere.

I recently went to a first-time meeting with a new contact. And I was so impressed, and frankly, inspired by the way he had clearly taken a look at my LinkedIn profile. He looked at my company website. And so he came prepared with specific questions that would lead to positive outcomes for both of us. And I really appreciated that. And so to your point, I think just a few minutes spent can really mean a difference maker.

Susie Tomenchok:    Absolutely. And how long, you're right. That didn't take him very long.

Alana Muller:    No.

Susie Tomenchok:    It didn't feel like he was stalking.

Alana Muller:    No.

Susie Tomenchok:    But it was out of interest. And the way we see it and the way that it's felt are really different perspective. So, yeah. I completely agree.

Alana Muller:    That's exactly right. Can you talk about a specific interaction with somebody who resulted in a breakthrough for you, either personally or professionally?

Susie Tomenchok:    I talk a lot in my book ... I actually renamed him in the book and I don't know why. It's actually like, he's not the best character in the book, and I named him my brother's name in honor of my brother. And now I apologize to him. I'm like, sorry that you're that guy. But just seeing how he would advocate for himself and others all the time, just ask for things. I think just seeing that in motion, at first, it was kind of like, ugh, he asks for everything. But then over time I was like, wow, what does it hurt sometimes to just ask and just see out of curiosity.I didn't have to go and push beyond, like he would, push beyond my discomfort. It could look very different for me to just fit within my style. But asking out of curiosity and not thinking that it's, you're asking for more or asking for a favor.

But when you do it from that perspective, it opens up a lot more of even showing the other person that there's other options too. It opens up their ability to be creative, out of curiosity and not thinking that it's, you're asking for more or asking for a favor. But when you do it from that perspective, it opens up a lot more of even showing the other person that there's other options too. It opens up their ability to be creative, and not tension. When there's tension around it, what that does is it closes us down. So I guess when I think about ... that was a huge breakthrough for me. Just to being able to see that in a different view, and see how it fits for me.

Alana Muller:    Yeah. That makes complete sense. Do you find that when it comes to relationships, is most of the relationship building that you're doing, is it organic, or is it more ... I guess what I would say, is it unintentional or deliberate when it comes to proactively asking for business and referrals? Is it coming to you or are you asking for it? Especially from the viewpoint of somebody who is an expert in negotiations.

Susie Tomenchok:    I think it is about, first and foremost, it's building the relationship. And people may know I'm give and ask, or they know what I do for a living. So they're smart people, so they might be able to put two and two together. I go and understand the other person, and then figure out how what I'm doing will provide value to them. And if it doesn't feel like it's a good fit, I don't want ... I want it to be a win-win.

So when I think about starting a new relationship, and like you said, organic, or kind of like ... I don't want to say manipulated. But I really think about the person. Get to know them first, and then figure out whether my services or something that I have to offer is a good fit for them. And if that's true, then I feel a lot more comfortable talking about what that might look like.

Alana Muller:    I love that. So as we begin to wrap up, I always like to ask a couple of fun questions. And my first one is, if you could meet with one person living, not living, fictional, non-fictional, who would it be and why?

Susie Tomenchok:    Oh, wow. I haven't even thought about this. And you know who comes to mind, is Oprah.

Alana Muller:    Love it.

Susie Tomenchok:    And I think it's because I think I was listening to Bob Iger's book yesterday, and he talked about getting her on the map. But she just has had so much, I guess curiosity, I think, has really been a secret formula for her. And just being bold and unapologetic. I've always respected her. Gosh, look at how she's redefined herself through so many years, and has always been giving to others.

Alana Muller:    Yeah. I have to tell you, you're not the first person to say they wanted to meet Oprah.

Susie Tomenchok:    Really?

Alana Muller:    Yeah. I mean, if I could just get her on the show, think of how many people would love to have a conversation with her. Yeah. I mean, I think you're so right. Talk about somebody who came from humble and difficult beginnings, and has really not only made a name for herself, but made a difference in the world. And you're right, that ... I don't know. Unadorned, unabashed curiosity and the way she asks questions. So not just as an interviewer, but clearly as somebody who wants to learn more and more and more, she has certainly done that.

Susie Tomenchok:    Yeah, for sure. That's a good one.

Alana Muller:    That's great. That's great. Okay. Another fun question. So what's currently on your nightstand?

Susie Tomenchok:    Oh, what's on my ... besides my book, right?

Alana Muller:    Good.

Susie Tomenchok:    Kidding. I've read it enough. I'm tired of it. I'm actually reading Bob Iger. I don't know if I'm saying that right.

Alana Muller:    You are. Yeah.

Susie Tomenchok:    He was the ABC guy.

Alana Muller:    Yeah.

Susie Tomenchok:    And I feel like some of it is the journey that I went through, some of the corporate things that are just interesting to hear. But just how as a leader, how he had to go through the different phases of his career. And the decisions that were kind of like, why me? And that self-doubt. It's just always interesting for me to hear the stories of people who I would define as, made it, but also understanding the struggles and the similar decisions that they had to make along the way.

Alana Muller:    Well, I mean, that goes back to your earlier point about, we have to make our way there. We have to try different things, and when we see opportunities, attempt to take them. But it's not just, we just make it, or we get exactly what we're asking for. It's about relationship building, about building a business, about trying new things and stumbling. And I think that's what you're describing, so that makes great sense. Great sense.

Well, as ever, I love talking with you. I love your energy. And I just think everybody should go out and read “The Art of Every Day Negotiations Without Manipulation.” So great. Tell our listeners where they can go to learn more about you, about Inturri Consulting, and about “The Art of Everyday Negotiation Without Manipulation.”

Susie Tomenchok:    Sure, I'd love to. And thank you, this has been super fun. My website is And then if they want to join my network, “Negotiation Love” is where I have a freebie for people to start thinking about negotiation. There's a prep sheet that they can get and be a part of the network. That's an easy way to connect with me. And the book is available on Amazon, or you can get it through my website, either way.

So I just want to spread the love for negotiation. I really want people to understand that it's looking at life just differently, and being really intentional for ourselves and our teams.

Alana Muller:    Well, Susie, Tomenchok, thank you so much for being on Podcast. Love talking with you. And I look forward to our future conversations.

Susie Tomenchok:    Me as well. Thank you so much.

Alana Muller:    Thanks for joining us this week on Be sure to visit our website,, to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us., empowering business leaders, one conversation at a time.

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