The Right Questions

The Right Questions

By : Dalia E Paratore Harrison

Sometimes it seems that our clients are demanding answers, now. They either need help with a campaign, a strategy, content creation, content distribution. product channeling or it may be as complex as churn reduction. The reality is that it is tempting to provide solutions based on past success with your other clients, accounts or based on what’s trending on Social Media. But the answer may lie in asking your clients the right questions.

I recently read Wait, What and Life’s Essential Questions? by James E. Ryan, Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. The book started out as a graduation speech but morphed into a book based the recommendation of a book editor. The premise being that in life you need only ask five basic questions and that the gift to living life well is not knowing the answers but which questions to ask. 

These five questions, as the author rightly points out, are to be used in personal and business settings and I wanted to elaborate upon the latter. Below I go through the five questions in the book and how they can apply to your business setting.

Wait, What? Is the first question and it has to do with obtaining clarity. How many times do we have conversations with clients and already know what we are going to advise them or sell them without fully listening to them? Instead we launch into a speech about what products and/or services we can offer them. Why do we do this? I believe that it is due to the pressure to either appear to have all the answers; the fear that in our clients’ eyes we will not seem knowledgeable. And the reality is that this is furthest from the truth. To know everything without fully making sure that we have heard our clients out is an error. Instead we should ask probing questions to make sure that we fully understand what their goals are. What is their strategy? What is their budget or an approximation of it? How they are being measured and how do they gauge success? We must first understand them before we can make a single recommendation as to tactic, product or strategy.

I wonder..? Is the second question and is the essence of curiosity. This means that once we have heard our clients out that we should try to explore other options or get creative. For example, if a client has limited budget then “I wonder if we might try this another way?” or “have you thought about perhaps XYZ strategy?”. Don’t try to fit products to their budget based on sales goals or a cookie cutter approach. Our clients do turn to us for ideas as well. We may have the benefit of working with many clients and in various industries. That leads to additional insight that they may not have and this is the true consultative approach. 

Couldn’t We at Least…? This question seeks to find compromise. If you are trying to interest your client in a certain product or service, or in a contract of a certain length, perhaps it is time to compromise. For example, if a client is hesitant about signing a year contract, then perhaps a 6-month or project by project timeline would work best. Companies that don’t offer their clients flexibility are ultimately harming the relationship.

How Can I Help? This fourth question is at the heart of any relationship. A client has turned to you because he/she thinks that you can solve a problem that they have. This may be in distributing content or knowing how to address a certain audience.  This may be knowing what vehicles to use to communicate to a market segment or understanding timing. For example, when sending out content to international markets it is good to understand nuances such as holidays or language/ slang differences. Spanish in Spain is not the same as Spanish is Colombia. Just saying.

What Truly Matters? This last question gets to the meat of the matter. Creating campaigns, sending out content, organizing events or attending them…these are all great but what is our client’s ultimate goal? Is it impressions? Is it brand awareness? Is it sales? Is it churn reduction? If you’ve asked your questions right this will tie in to the first question perfectly.

We all have time constraints, goals and deadlines. The secret is to ask the right questions so that we can be efficient and effective in our conversations. This saves time and misunderstandings, leading to greater success and fulfillment in our client interactions.

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