By Karen Cortell Reisman
Questions, and their accompanying answers, go through personal filter systems with personal slants of perception.
Asking questions and analyzing answers become tricky.
In the spirit of "practicing what you preach," I will ask and answer questions about asking and answering questions.
What makes a question effective?
A good question is relatively short, clear, and unambiguous. Ask only one question at a time. Pouring out a string of questions (even if they are on the same topic) is likely to confuse your customer, who often won't know where to begin an answer.
What are the different kinds of questions to use?
The best way to categorize questions is to think of them along a continuum of relatively closed to relatively open.
Closed questions ask for a very specific yes/no answer.
Open questions require more thought. These questions will provide greater insights. The trick is to be quiet and listen to the responses.
After you ask a question, how long should you wait for a response?
Hold out as long as possible, up to 5 seconds. Be patient. Many people, if they don't get a response right away, immediately rephrase the question, repeat it, or answer it themselves. The latter is a particularly bad strategy since the listener will be even less inclined to make the effort to answer a question.
What can you do to get your customers to ask questions?
Give your customer a chance to frame their questions. The silence that follows your earnest, "What questions do you have?" may be uncomfortable, but it's important. Convince your customer with your tone of voice and body language that you are receptive to their inquiries. Do this from the very first interaction, and be enthusiastic when you receive questions.
How can you best manage the process of answering questions?
How do you know when you've got the best answer?
Izzy Gesell, a personal and business coach, says, "The first answer rarely identifies the underlying cause or motivations." His rule of thumb is to go to the second and third levels. His example:
Level 1: "Why don't you like to go to the dentist?" "I'm afraid."
Level 2: "Why are you afraid?" "I think I'm going to be in pain."
Level 3: "How do you know that would happen?" "I've had a bad experience . . ."
Gesell says, "It's HERE at this third level that you'll get a valuable discussion. Gesell emphasizes, "You know you have the best answer when the issue gets resolved or the customer is able to challenge their own limiting assumptions."
Any questions? Call or email me.
Ask clear questions. Then WAIT up to 5 seconds for the response.