Why does everyone like to ask questions

Do you know that I ask a lot of questions? 🙂

And there’s nothing wrong with that, since I’m a salesperson in all ways, and this is still true: Telling ain’t selling!

The essence of effective selling, of course, is asking. And I don’t mean asking for the order—though that’s critical—I mean asking questions.

But this blog is not about selling. It’s about why we ask questions, no matter our role.

But first, a story:

In 1989, as a 31-year-old sales guy offering management training in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, I invited a Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper SVP to my office to explore his team’s training needs. As this fiftysomething, gray-haired exec stood at my flip chart diagraming his organizational structure so I could “probe for need”—I probed …

I don’t remember my question, but I’ll never forget his swift and intense reaction to a question I posed. He turned from the flip chart with great speed and swung his right arm toward me in dramatic fashion, pointed directly at my face, and exclaimed, “Now that is an outstanding question!”

Though I was seated at a conference table and only 5’ 6”—I felt ten feet tall!

My stature had risen in his eyes not because of something I had told him, but because of something I had asked him.

Yes, the question I asked that day helped me move the selling process forward, but let me be clear: The power and value of a good question has nothing to do with being a professional salesperson.

Asking questions is a skill required by people in all roles, job functions, and professions.

Why exactly do we ask questions? Well, here are 15 reasons to do so!

1. To acquire knowledge

2. To eliminate confusion

3. To cause someone else to feel special/important

4. To guide a conversation in the direction we want it to go

5. To demonstrate humility to another

6. To enable a person to discover answers for themselves

7. To gain empathy through better understanding another’s view

8. To influence/alter someone else’s opinion/view

9. To begin a relationship

10. To strengthen a relationship

11. To humbly show we have knowledge on a specific topic

12. To stimulate creativity and idea generation

13. To gain a person’s attention

14. To solve a problem

15. To reach agreement or to “agree to disagree” with clarity

So, there they are … 15 reasons to ask questions.

But wait!  To understand why we DO ask questions, it’s good to explore the reasons why we DO NOT ask questions. Here are six:

1. To find a culprit

2. To embarrass and shame

3. To appear superior

4. To create fear

5. To manipulate

6. To play the victim, as in, “Why is this happening to me?” (See QBQ! book)

So, let’s discuss:

Which one (or ones) on our list of 15 surprise you?

Are there some on that list you want to accomplish more often? Share!

Can you add one or two to our 15?

NOTE: No adding stuff like, “enhances communication,” “builds teamwork,” or “to coach.” When we accomplish many of the 15 on our list, those goals will be achieved.

Lastly, can you add to the list of 6 reasons we DO NOT ask questions?

Okay, comment away!

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John Miller

John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Raising Accountable Kids. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife, Karen. The Millers have 7 children and 11 grandchildren. Reach John by email at [email protected]

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