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Questions As Weapons!

by David Brock on September 17th, 2013

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?

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  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Questions, great topic Dave.

    I have always thought of them as tools.
    I carry them, much like my namesakes McGyver’s utility knife!

    Never ask a question,
    without knowing WHY you are asking it!

    So, that’s the end of ‘scripted’ sales calls!

    I did ask once:
    “How long can you continue to lose 10 million a year?”

    The Client replied:
    “Thirty two years!”

    That’s the difference between Urgent and Important!

  2. Great, enduring topic. As one who has written extensively about sales questions (some might say ad nauseum), and coached and trained others on this topic, I have started to take a different view.

    An idea I picked up from a radio interview with Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, an emergency room doctor who wrote a book, “When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests,” offers an approach I think is valuable.

    The premise of Dr. Kosowsky’s book grabbed my attention because it was so different from what I had been taught – or been teaching – about questioning, and that is recognizing the value of NO questions. In short, Dr. Kosowsky has observed that many medical errors occur because physicians used templated patterns of questions, and in the process, they miss learning more important facts and information. To excerpt from the interview:

    “it’s remarkable what kinds of histories that patients are able to provide to these doctors because the doctors stopped interrupting them with lots of questions. They don’t lead them in directions that don’t make sense.

    They don’t pepper them with a long laundry list of yes/no questions that have marginal relevance. And they walk away actually understanding the story.”

    One really needs to read the full interview to understand the context of his comments, but what a fantastic approach for salespeople, as well! Could this change what we do in sales meetings? I’ve used his recommendations, and found that there’s merit, for many reasons.

    If you’d like the full transcript for the interview, there’s a link in a blog I wrote about this topic, “Don’t Ask Me No Questions, and I Won’t Tell You No Lies,” on CustomerThink.

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