One of the topics I cover on various courses is that of Questioning Skills. A basic subject, and most people recognise its importance. Most have also been “taught” it and reckon they are pretty good it at. So when I cover it I use an exercise which acts as a wake up call pretty well every time. Often the group fails to get the answer, or does so very inefficiently. I actually find that the more experienced people in the room often are worst at it, for reasons I’ll come on to.
So let’s see whether you can get it. Imagine you can ask me 20 questions, anything you like, and I’ll give you an honest answer every time. Do you think you would find out the answer to this one:
ERIC WOKE UP
TURNED ON THE RADIO
TURNED ON THE LIGHT
Did you get it? If you did, you’re the exception.
I must have used this exercise hundreds of times. What happens most often is that people assume they know the answer and use closed questions to prove it. Did he find out his business had gone bankrupt? Was he upset? Etc. To which I give closed answers, and they get nowhere fast.
The thing is, I used to teach clarinet and saxophone, mainly to kids, as an energiser. Guess what? 8 years olds get this in 5! We “grown ups” know so damn much we can’t keep an open mind, and as a result we can’t ask an open question. Profound? You bet! If you can’t ask an open question you probably can’t sell, because you find it so hard to get close to what is going on for the customer. You don’t get to the root of things, which means you are operating in “spray and pray” mode, as I like to call it. Inefficient at best, disrespectful, opinionated and arrogant at worst.
I so enjoy this conversation in a training room, particularly when they think they know it all. If you didn’t get the answer, I’m happy to tell you. But you’ll have to send me an email first!