Have you ever thought about how many questions you ask in a day? Have you ever asked a question you never dared to ask before? Questions are a powerful tool, too often underestimated and misused.
Bombarding your interlocutor with superficial questions is not the solution (you’ll end up talking more than listening and exhaust the person you are speaking to). Think about the quality of the response you want to get and direct the energy of your interlocutor to very specific and targeted questions.
Do not expect different results if you ask the same questions over and over again
As Albert Einstein well stated “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.
This is exactly the same with the practice of asking questions. Why would you expect to better understand your client or avoid misunderstandings if you always ask the same set of questions to collect the same type of answers? Every project is an opportunity to point out what has not been well communicated or interpreted and find ways to avoid those difficulties in the future.
Don’t let opinionated questions restrain the conversation
You are the professional here. You’ve prepared yourself very well for this interview and your strong experience about this type of project put you in a confident position, but don’t make the stupid mistake to presume that your client has nothing new to teach you - listen to them. Do not forget that the project originated from the client’s will, so before you make your expertise part of the project, you need to join in the discussion. Come to the interview fresh and eager to find things you did not anticipate. Asking questions is one of the first interactions you will have with your client. Do not neglect this first impression by creating distance between you and your interlocutor. Make your client an essential piece of the process; reassure and show them that you take their visions seriously.
You are an explorer and you should take your client with you
Asking questions is about intent, an intent to learn and know more about what you did not know before. Curiosity and compassion are your main unfair advantages here. As your client is not always able to demonstrate exactly what he wants, needs and expects (because that’s your job really) you need to help your interlocutor to provide you with everything he knows and what he feels. Also, you don’t want your interlocutor to answer mechanically. You want to make him rethink what he knows critically from another perspective, that’s why it is important to prepare your client about the fact that you’re going through a learning process, together. There are always things we know we don’t know but also things we don’t know we don’t know. Finally, do not take what you think you already know for granted, just ask the question and you may be surprised.
Asking questions is a very important part of any project. As well as involving the client in the project, it helps you learn a lot more about what the project is going to be. Questions are a powerful tool that you need to learn how to use and practice to make the most of your expertise. It may come in handy when you first meet a prospective client, to evaluate if the project is worth considering, or when you collect actionable knowledge at the beginning of the project or even when you feel stuck at some point to help you get back on track.