Communication essentials: questions > answers

“I’ve been in this business over 20 years,” is what people usually say to imply they have all the answers.

Well, I can say I’ve been in this business over 20 years … and for me, it’s less about the answers and more about the questions.

Questions. As in I ask a lot of them. My wife hates it. My clients like it. Mainly because if I’m asking questions, it means I’m really trying to understand what it is that makes their product or service unique. And then I turn around and ask a lot of questions about their target audience. If I’m lucky we get to talk directly to that audience to understand what their pain point is and what they truly care about.

Sounds simple, I know. But one thing I like to focus on in this blog is the things that seem simple but usually aren’t. Or that we take for granted. Like understanding the value of a good question.

This article from Inc. does just that:

Your product is not their problem.

The article talks about people and companies that think just by knowing the product, you know the customer. But every customer is different. Every pain point is different. And every time you think you have an answer, maybe try replacing it with a well-worded, well-timed question.

Read the author’s take on his reaction to an entry level employee looking for new market opportunities who was leading with answers, instead of questions:

“I wasn’t completely surprised because as a young marketeer, I made this mistake all the time—thinking that my product was a solution to someone’s problem—without ever understanding what problems the customers really had. And that I needed to have all the answers when in fact I didn’t even understand the questions.”

I wish I had learned this earlier in my career too. But as someone who wrote, pitched media and tried his hand at business development early, I had to learn it quick or else I wasn’t going to be around long.

Asking questions is an approach that has stuck with me throughout my career, so in the spirt of that … what do you think of the author’s advice? Do you rely on questions in your daily approach? Email me. I’d love to hear your take.

This is our last blog of the month—see you in June!