It isn’t always easy to ask questions. You may worry your question has already been answered, will annoy the person you’re asking, or is clarifying a point that may be obvious. As such, it can be common to fall into the trap of thinking that asking too many questions conveys a lack of expertise. In truth, there’s nothing that will make you look more amateur than incorrect assumptions. Here’s three tips we use to help get the answers we need to help our clients reach their goals.
There are certain questions you can count on when starting a project: What is the goal of the project? What does success look like? What audience are we speaking to? What’s worked in the past? What hasn’t? Are there any technical requirements for the project that need to be met? What deadlines are we working against? Make note of the questions you find yourself asking most often and add to it whenever you encounter a new gem that helps you get to the heart of what your client needs. Preparing questions in advance can also help you leverage novelty in order to get at the heart of things. Dale Carnegie, author of of How to Win Friends and Influence People, encouraged people to “Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” Is there a new way you can ask common question?
That said, asking questions is not an excuse to avoid doing your research! While you will need to ask about the specifics of your client’s work, you can find several resources that will help you introduce yourself to their business. Perhaps you know someone with connections to their industry, or maybe there are trade publications you can read either online or in print. You don’t need to know everything, but you may feel more confident asking questions if you’ve had a chance to familiarize yourself with the type of work your client does. Above all else, prepare to listen! If you need help focusing on the responses you’re getting, Are You Really Listening by the Harvard Business Review offers seven steps to set you up for listening success.
Your client is an expert at what they do; they know the ins and outs of their work and are fluid in the needs of their clients. If you’re looking to understand their work, you need to be willing to clarify an acronym you might not recognize or a piece of industry jargon that might not be commonplace. Is your client using SMB to refer to small and medium businesses or subject matter experts? You may think you understand their clients’ buyer’s journey, but are you sure?
Once we understand what the client wants, we make sure to echo what we’ve heard when we present our solution.
That way we can explain why we’ve made the choices we have and ensure we’re on the right track before we spend too much time headed in the wrong direction.
Did the perfect question come to you after your discovery meeting? Has something changed mid-project? Do you know if your last project met or exceeded your client’s expectations? If you’re having trouble bringing new questions to your client, you can set the expectation early. Let them know that while you don’t have additional questions now, you might reach out again after you’ve had a chance to investigate different solutions. Tell your client you’d like to debrief after the project, but don’t let that stop you from checking in with them along the way.
Remember, your questions can be the difference between giving a client what they want and providing them with the solutions that they actually need to achieve the results they desire. If you want them to be on board with your recommendations, you need to understand exactly where they’re coming from and the only way to get the right answers is to ask the right questions.
Do you have questions for us? Let us know by reaching out to us.