Now that’s a great question…


If you’re not asking the right questions, you aren’t going to get the right answers.  In the world of coaching and advising business owners, that is one of the most critical factors in moving a client forward. It isn’t about just asking questions; it is about asking the right questions.

The power of a great question is that you not only get the answer you’re looking for, you also get a lot of thoughts around that answer.  They usually aren’t yes or no answers or one word answers.   A great question requires more thought, includes perspective, and comes from a deeper place.  The consistent ability to ask great questions is a driver for trial lawyers, doctors, news reporters, repair technicians, and sales professionals.  And yes, they can even positively impact family conversations, with spouses, siblings and kids.

Often during interviews you’ll hear the interviewee, respond with “Now that’s a great question!”   Sometimes it may just be a statement to flatter the person who asked, but assuming it’s genuine, they are saying, “I never thought of that before, you know your stuff, that question speaks to my interests not yours, that’s a smart question.” And, usually the interview takes a turn for the better in the moments that follow.

One of my favorite sales books is Jeffrey Gitomer’s  “The Little Red Book of Selling”, it was released in the mid-2000’s.  Some sales professionals discount it for not having enough depth, but it’s packed with a lot of great suggestions and reminders to improve your success at selling.   Additionally, I think it is a book anyone can benefit from, because whether you want to admit it or not, to some degree we all are in “sales”.

The book offers his 12.5 Principles (he always as a little extra) on selling and #7 is all about the questions.  Asking questions that engage the person you are talking to.  Not just yes and no questions, but open ended questions or statements that get the person to tell you more.   Gitomer calls them “Power Question lead-ins”.  Again, this is a sales book, but you could apply the smart style of questioning to leadership roles, parenting, coaching, team building, and so on.

And the right questions can even change the whole dynamic of an interaction. Gitomer’s mantra on selling is “People don’t like to be Sold, but they Love to Buy.” (He even trademarked the statement)  Maybe all you’re selling is an idea or challenging someone on a concept, but asking the right questions are going to move you from selling to getting them to have buy-in and wanting to take ownership – that’s a huge difference…!

Here are a few examples…you complete the question.

  • How do you determine….?
  • What has been your experience….?
  • What is one thing you would improve about….?
  • How do you propose….?
  • Why is that a deciding factor…?
  • What would you change about….?
  • Why is it important that you….?

Questions like these are going to be hard for someone give you a simple Yes or No answer.   They are going to have to share a little more than one or two words in their answer.    You are more likely to uncover something significant and get closer to the issues that really matter to them.    Your level of engagement will increase and you just might hear “Now that is a great question!”

What about you?  Do you ever think about the power of your questions?  Do you have your own list of great questions you use in your business or personal life?   As always we appreciate any comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach