The Question is Never the Question (unless it’s “where’s the bathroom?”)

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It’s so tempting to answer the question when you know the answer. People ask you questions all day, and sometimes it feels like you should just get straight to the point, solve the problem, and move on to what’s next.

But answering the question shouldn’t necessarily be your highest priority.

Why?

Because sometimes, answering the question won’t solve the problem.

Your highest priority is to be helpful, to be useful, and to deliver value.

Your clients ask questions to which you know the answer, and you’re quick with a response. It feels good to know stuff and to be able to give an answer on the fly.

But often, a better response is “Tell me more about that–what’s going on?” That’s how you’ll find out what they really need to know.

They don’t know what they don’t know, so they ask whatever questions pop into their heads.

They get answers that aren’t of much help, the conversation ends, and they’re no better off than they were before.

My favorite example involves the calls we receive from prospective clients.

“How much does it cost?” they ask.

But what they really want to know is:

What’s going to happen? What should I expect out of the process? How is it going to feel? How long will it take? Will I feel better when it’s over?

Telling them it’ll cost $10,000 might answer one question, but it prevents a dozen more from being asked, and more importantly, prevents them from getting the information they actually need.

Asking them to tell you more, to tell you what’s going on, is a better response.

Asking, instead of telling, starts a conversation, it opens the door wider, it gives them what they need. It’s the conversation that’s best for both of you.

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