Any questions? How often do we have that question posed to us and, despite having a question we’d like to ask we find ourselves saying, “No, I don’t have any questions.” Inevitably we leave that interaction and ironically ask ourselves “Why didn’t I ask about that,” when realize we had some key information missing and simply didn’t want to appear pushy. While we don’t want to just fire off questions like we’re leading an interrogation, the ability to effectively ask questions is not only beneficial for your objectives, but enhances your abilities as a communicator.
The obvious benefit of asking questions is getting answers. To maximize this benefit though, we have to be willing to ask follow up questions. Too often, especially if we’re making a professional phone call, we get that first answer and are so eager to get off the phone, we bail. It’s as if we’re fearful that any further interaction will ruin the conversation or damage the business relationship. Asking second and third level questions will lead you to all the information you need, not just a partial answer.
Obtaining necessary information in one conversation is efficient. Aren’t we always looking for ways to be efficient in our daily processes? How much more productive would you be in your job if you could cut out a significant number of follow-up calls or emails, by asking addressing all of the important points on the first call, and having all your questions answered? How much of your own time would you save, and how much aggravation would you avoid if you asked a few additional confirming questions when finalizing a major purchase? In either case you stand to give yourself time to complete other work or have a bit more peace of mind.
Asking questions is also a pretty clear indicator that you’re listening. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re being listened to? Whether talking to your kids, significant other, your boss or your clients; the ability to recite details from your conversation and ask clarifying questions shows that you’re interested and engaged. The people you interact with will appreciate it.
No matter how experienced a person is, there is always something new to learn. Regardless of how intelligent or educated you may be, no one has all the answers. Asking questions affords us the opportunity to learn and grow. This is especially important in our professional lives. We feel that a process is something we should already know how to do, even if we’re relatively new to the job. Or we don’t want to appear uneducated, so we refrain from asking questions.
Rather than asking questions to ensure we know what we’re doing, we try to complete the task without really knowing how to complete it. This practice is inefficient and will force us to spend time following up in order to learn the proper process. In a professional setting, this could make you appear unreliable. Be ok with the fact that you don’t know everything, but be willing to ask the questions required in order to enhance your skill set or just learn something new.
Ultimately the most significant benefit of asking questions is personal gain. In sales you’re taught to ask questions to cross-sell additional products or for referrals. It can be daunting for even seasoned sales professionals. How much more could you grow your pipeline and customer base by requesting referrals? More importantly, how much better would your bank account look, if you could condition yourself to ask for additional business when closing a deal?
Fortunately I have spent the majority of my professional life working in positions which required that I continually dig deeper in order to be effective. Despite that, it is still a skill that requires continual practice, and I have plenty of situations where I’m not comfortable with it. Force yourself to try it though. Next time you upgrade you cell phone, when the sale is done, ask for one more thing. Unlimited data, an extra accessory, $5 off your monthly bill; whatever it is, see if it works. It’ll be uncomfortable but it may just start to get you into the habit of doing it consistently. The next thing you know you may be asking your boss for a raise, and you just may get it. How will you know if you don’t ask? Any questions?