In her delightful book Educating Alice, author Alice Steinbach writes that as a child her family remembers her pestering them with questions. She explains it this way: “Given my insatiable curiosity and intense admiration for Nancy Drew, my future plans hinged on entering the detective profession. I saw myself as Nancy Drew aging into Miss Marple. It was the perfect life for me, I thought then, one that would require me to constantly ask questions, find out the answers, and along the way learn a lot of new things.” Steinbach didn’t become a detective, but she did have a successful career as a journalist where her question-asking skills got a regular workout.
Soliciting information isn’t the only reason to ask questions. Here are some others that are particularly useful to entrepreneurs.
* Clarifying questions. Good communicators use this technique all the time to make sure that they understand what was said. “Did I understand you correctly when you said you wanted to give me a free massage?” is just such a question.
* Getting ideas. Asking questions of yourself can bring answers from your subconscious mind. I frequently ask myself, “How can I make things better?” Sometimes the answer is mundane (dust the bookshelves), but often it serves as an invitation for some grander project.
* Seeking advice. These are the kinds of questions I get asked the most. “How do I market my services on a shoestring? What do you think of this idea? Do you know anyone who can help me break into the specialty food marketing business?” While entrepreneurs must be willing to ask for advice from informed sources, they must also be willing to listen and not argue with the advice they’re given.
* Helping customers make a decision. Successful sales people are skillful at asking questions that bring prospects to a commitment. “So would you like a six-month or twelve-month supply?” is a decision-making query.
The esteemed business guru Peter Drucker said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” So where are you needing support? Who can you ask? What can you ask of yourself? Sometimes we fail to receive support because nobody knows we need it.
Asking better questions also means avoiding dead end ones. As the authors of The One Minute Millionaire point out, “The wrong question will generate the wrong result or a less than outstanding outcome. The size of your question determines the size of your answer.”
Think of the world as a big, rich resource center that has everything you need to make your dreams come true. Tapping into it may be as easy as asking the right questions.