Ever feel like you’re not getting the information you need for your business marketing? Maybe you’re not asking the right questions.

It sounds like common sense, but unless you ask carefully considered questions, you won’t uncover the right information. This means that you’ll only ever have a superficial grasp of what your customer or client really wants, and getting impressive marketing results will be a real struggle.

Proper questioning is fast becoming a lost art.
 The curious four-year-old asks a lot of questions – we expect a constant barrage of “why?” and “why not?” from them. But as we grow older, our eagerness for questioning decreases.

It’s estimated that 70-80% of children’s dialogue is made up of questions. But, as adults, only 15-25% of interactions consist of questions. Why the drop off?

business conversationThink back to your time growing up and at school. Chances are, you received the most recognition or reward when you got the correct answers. Later in life, that incentive continues. At work, we often reward those who answer questions, not those who ask them. In fact, those who question conventional wisdom can be sidelined, isolated, or even considered a threat.

It’s time to turn this problematic trend around. Because not only will curiosity help you solve tricky business challenges, it’ll also boost your cognitive power. Questions stimulate the new brain, or neocortex, which is responsible for sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning and conscious human thought. Pretty nifty, right?

The more consideration and personal investment you place in your questions, the more comfortable people will be in confidently sharing valuable information with you.

So, to ensure that your questions prompt rich, insightful responses, here are four basic constructs to help you frame your queries.

1.  Standard

Standard questions are a good place to start in a conversation, and can be broken into open and closed-ended questions.

As a rule, asking open-ended questions always trumps closed-ended ones. Closed-ended questions are those that can be answered with a succinct, definitive answer. They give you hard facts, but little more.

E.g. ‘How many products do you currently offer?’

Open-ended questions will draw out a longer answer. They prompt your respondent to reflect, and tend to result in more opinionated and emotional responses.

E.g. ‘So what does success look like?’

2. Directive

This is a leading question that often offers the respondent a clue as to how they should answer. Also, using questions like these shows that you have ideas on the topic that you’d like to share and explore.

E.g. Open-ended question: ‘How close are you to your most valued customers?’

E.g. Closed ended question: ‘Wouldn’t it be good to get closer to your customers?’


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3. Reflective

Now’s a good time to use information gleaned earlier in the conversation to dig deeper into a topic. It’s also a great way to demonstrate that you’ve been listening carefully.

E.g. Open-ended question: ‘You referenced competitor A. How would they describe you?’

E.g. Closed-ended question: ‘You referenced competitor A. Are they your biggest threat?’

4. Conditional

The same applies here – take facts learned earlier in the conversation, then direct your line of questioning to uncover useful information.

E.g. Open-ended questions: ‘If your two favourite brands were the only ones on offer, what sets them apart?’

E.g. Closed-ended questions: ‘If you had to choose between brand x or brand y, which one would you go for?’

Remember: the more consideration and personal investment you place in your questions, the more comfortable people will be in confidently sharing valuable information with you.

In short

To make fruitful decisions, we need to ask questions that matter. This logic applies to every area of your business: ask great questions of yourself, of your team, of your customers and of convention.

So, the only thing left to do now is to come over, pop the kettle on and discover how just one great conversation could boost your business.