How to ask Great Questions

Published on 18th March 2018 in Leadership

A Critical Skill

Knowing how to ask great questions is a critical skill. It’s essential for leadership, engagement, sales and pretty much everything. You gain more credibility from the questions you ask than the stories you tell. Here are 10 tips for asking great questions.

The Top 10 Tips

  1. First, develop your listening skills. You need to be an excellent listener to absorb what you learn from asking questions. Look at any professional interviewer on TV. Their skill is not in their first question but in their follow-up questions. You can only ask great follow-up questions if you have been attentive, focused and really listening.
  2. Prepare your questions. This is important for salespeople. You need to have done your homework and know what you’d like to find out.
  3. Use open questions when you are seeking opinions and feelings. Start with: “what, why, how, describe.” You will get longer answers.
  4. Use closed questions when you are seeking facts. Start with “do, would, are, will.” You will get quick answers. Classically “yes” or “no”.
  5. Use follow-up questions to explore deeper. If you hear something you feel is particularly interesting. Ask, “Can you tell me more about that?”.
  6. Ask probing questions when you hear ‘loaded’ words such as reliability, quality, value, soon and support. Don’t assume you know what they mean.
  7. Use expander questions. “What would be an example of . . .? When did you first start to experience . . .? How often does . . . happen?”
  8. Use assumptive questions. If you are asking about a problem or issue. Use careful phrasing to convey that you assume the person is capable and knowledgeable. “When you put together your disaster recovery plan, which issues gave you most concern” As opposed to, “Most companies don’t have a disaster recovery plan. Do you?
  9. Use process questions to find out how things are done. “How does that work in practice? What’s the theory behind this?”
  10. Don’t forget to stop and listen. Silence is good. Longer silences tend to be followed by more considered answers.

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