Lawyers always say, “Never ask a question unless you know the answer.” In courts, they don’t ask questions to learn or discover, they ask questions to make a point, to guide perceptions of the jury in the direction they want. Their questions are driven to get people to reach the conclusion that favors them. Questions are used as weapons—to defend the view they want to promote, to destroy all other points of view.
Too often, as business professionals, we use questions as weapons. We use questions as weapons.
We ask questions with an agenda. We’re not looking for answers. We’re not looking to learn. We are trying to guide people in a direction, to reach the conclusion we want them to reach. We use questions as a tool to persuade.
We use questions to elicit the key words that trigger our pitch. “Wouldn’t you like to learn how to make more money and increase your profits?” “Well, no, I already have enough thank you…….” (This is one of my favorites to use with people who call me. They don’t know how to deal with that response. It just stops them.)
We use questions as weapons or as forms of manipulation.
Our customers recognize this! They understand exactly what we are doing and don’t tolerate it. They refuse to see us, they look for “trusted sources.” They pre-empt our questions, doing research on their own. Ultimately, they develop RFP’s or requirements document, saying “We don’t care about your questions, we just want answers to our questions.”
All of this represents loss–for both us and the customer. We fail to maximize our value through manipulative questioning (actually, we create no value).
The most effective questions lead to discovery and learning for both the customer and for us. They enable us to assess what we are currently doing, to consider new possibilities. Effective questioning enables us to engage the customer, and for them to engage us. We maximize our ability to have an impact from the customer when we learn about them, their dreams, challenges, and goals. We do that through effective questioning.
Whats’ your questioning strategy?