I’m betting that you’re an expert in what you do, and you possess a lot of answers to challenging questions. Moreover, you probably enjoy answering questions about your area of expertise – and your customers likely come to you with questions that are nagging at them. The questions you hear might sound something like this:
“How can I get my business featured in magazines?”
“What’s the key to building a highly motivated team?”
“How do we solve the homelessness crisis?”
Whatever your particular expertise, people want to know the secrets that you, the guru of whatever-it-is-you-do, possess. And it feels delicious to deliver those answers – being able to do that is a big part of why you went into your particular field. To be helpful. To share useful tools. All those good things.
Here’s the tricky part: Being in the role of dispenser-of-advice is seductive, exciting, and frankly, pretty awesome. Our egos get stroked when people want to know our expert opinion on stuff. But what actually makes you an indispensable advisor to your customers is your ability to ask them questions in return – and to co-create solutions with them.
When you ask the right questions, you inspire connection, collaboration, and serious problem-solving – all essential ingredients to powerful relationships and outcomes.
Stop spitting out default answers. Every expert worth their salt knows there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to offer, anyway.
Instead, dig deeper below your customers’ questions to find out what’s motivating them. You’ll gain a wealth of new info, cultivate trust, and build the foundation for a deeper – and more profitable – relationship with your customers.
Consultants have a chronic tendency to make the same mistakes I used to. Customers ask us questions, and we’re quick to respond with advice. We mistake having answers for expertise. But customers don’t often benefit from our first impressions, any more than you’d want an appointment with a surgeon to culminate with a diagnosis and surgery date after a cursory glance over your fully clothed body.
When we rush to a solution before understanding the real problem, we aren’t actually working for our customers; we’re focusing on ourselves.
We must go deeper – and not just because I said so, but because your livelihood depends on it.
I propose a challenge: The next time someone asks for your expert opinion, bite back the instinct to hold forth, and instead, answer their question with another question. (Don’t worry – this technique won’t annoy people if you do it thoughtfully.)
Want some questions to try out? Get a free copy of my e-book, Curious for a Living: How Asking Better Questions Makes You Indispensable, from which this post is excerpted. It includes thirteen essential questions to ask when you tackle your next project. More success, clarity, and ease guaranteed.