Can you name three qualities that make a question powerful and thought-provoking?
Did you see what we did there?
Great questions are a powerful tool in hiring, selling and in uncovering needs and desires. Great questions keep your subject thinking and maintains the focus on them. They can often cause some people to “think out loud” providing unedited answers that may be more truthful.
What makes an exceptional question? Here are a few thoughts.
They are open-ended.
Few thoughtful questions can be answered with a yes or no. “Are you happy?” is not nearly as thought-provoking as “What three things could you do this week to improve your life?”
They may be designed to get more than one answer.
In the above example, you are specifically asking for “three things”. That makes it more though-provoking than just “What could you do…” You need to be cautious not to ask a question that becomes too complex, however.
They should have a sense of urgency.
Setting a time-frame within your question can help create a sense of urgency and importance. “What three things could you do this week…” is an example.
They may demonstrate the negative impact of inaction.
If you are attempting to make a potential client uncomfortable with his present situation, powerful questions can help. “What would you do if a new competitor went into business tomorrow?” or “What happens if you don’t start getting more customers?”
They often can provide good insight into what’s important to a person.
“Tell me about an achievement you accomplished in the past 30 days that made you proud of yourself?” may be a good question for a potential hire. Hypotheticals often provide good insight, like “If you could spend 30 minutes talking to any person, dead or alive, who would it be?”
They provide valuable information.
“How does your family spend its free time?” could be a good question for a car salesman or a real estate agent.
Great questions also say something about those who ask them. They say you care about the person you are talking to and are interested in their thoughts. There’s something rewarding hearing “Wow, that’s a terrific question. Let me think for a minute.”
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