The Danger of not Asking Good Questions


A few years ago, I was called to an apartment complex to give them an estimate on the service we provide.  As I entered the property manager’s office, there was one of my competitors standing in front of her telling her all the grand and wonderful things they could help her with.  He turned and saw me and poured it on even stronger than he had been previously.

I politely apologized for interrupting and took a couple steps back into the waiting area and the door to the office remained open.  Seeing that I was just in the other room, my competitor wanted to make sure I could hear what was going on. He was telling all about his service, telling funny jokes (which she laughed at), promising satisfaction, giving positive referrals, and laying it on thick.

At one point, I could mentally see him pointing at me when he told her that he knew everything that my company did and how much of a better job they would do at an even cheaper price.  This guy was putting me on the ropes with left and rights before I even had a chance to lace up my shoes.  After a few more minutes of telling her all the benefits he was going to offer her, he said his good byes and walked out.  He was so pleased at the job he had just done as he walked by me, he handed me a pen with his company logo on it; as if it were a cigar and his wife just delivered a healthy, bouncing baby boy.

As I walked into the property manager’s office, I realized I couldn’t have the same approach of telling her how wonderful my company and I were.  She’d just heard that, and frankly he did a much better job of beating his chest than I could even attempt to do.

I’ve learned when you walk into a situation with difficult circumstances, that it’s always better to acknowledge the situation first and not the circumstances.  I asked to sit down and said, “Wow.  That guy really wants your business.”

He sure does”, she responds.

Then I look her right in the eyes and asked her, “Well what do YOU want?”

What do you mean?”, as she looks at me with a puzzled look on her face.

I asked her multiple questions to get a meticulous portrayal of what the perfect service would be for HER, not what I thought she wanted.  She went on to tell me that out of the five other companies that had been out to see her, I was the only one who asked her what she wanted.

She signed the agreement that very day.  She chose me and my company not because we had the best service (which we did) or the best price or the best program.  We had HER program.  The one she designed. The one that would fit her needs and desires the best.   When I asked the right questions on the front end I made it hers.  Her time and answers became HER investment and she wanted to see her investment come to fruition.

My competition made the mistake of presenting a solution without making a proper diagnosis.  What he did was the equivalent of going to the doctor with chest pains and him simply saying “I’ve got these “great” pills. Go home and take some, I know they will help.”  You wouldn’t be inclined to trust that doctor would you?

You would, however, trust the doctor who asked you 20 different questions about the pain and did a thorough examination before he gives you a solution.  The next time you are asked for a solution to a problem, practice asking 5 questions before you answer.  (Who, What, Where, When, Why)

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5 thoughts on “The Danger of not Asking Good Questions

  1. montyrainey says:

    What a terrific story and a great way of pointing out the fallacy of many in business. Stop pounding your chest long enough to ask the customer what they want. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of worrying so much about what competitors are doing, businesses just set out to be better tomorrow than they were today?

  2. Thank you so much. You are very encouraging and I thank you.

  3. aisadelacruz says:

    As a budding business development professional, asking the right questions is one of the skills that I have to hone. This article is a good reminder of the importance of developing that skill among others.

    Speaking of which, would you have resources on improving or increasing attention to detail? I’m such a macro- and concept/strategy-driven person, that I tend to overlook details in the decks that I submit to clients. My team helps me revise decks, but I would want minimal revision to be done so as to make pipeline transactions a bit faster.

    Thank you!

    • Many think they can work and think at the same time. They become expert multi-taskers, answering emails, phone calls, and handling problems as they arise while still doing the workload. The TRUTH is no one can multi-task. They can only switch and every time you switch task, it takes you eleven minutes to get refocused. On average we are interrupted every seven minutes. So this means we hardly ever get any work done.

      CNN did a study and said that when you switch task you lose 10 IQ points. When you smoke marijuana, you lose 5 IQ points. So you would be better off working STONED than multi-tasking. I work with people all the time that do this. Work with one thing at a time (clutter free)

      Sometimes you have to SLOW down to SPEED up

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