How To Improve Business By Asking Good Questions

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How To Improve Business By Asking Good Questions

When it comes to growing ideas, expanding mindsets, and building relationships with clients and prospects, asking questions can be far more valuable than providing answers.

But not all questions are created equal; there are good questions, and there are questions that won’t have the value or impact you’re looking for.

The kinds of questions to avoid.

Closed-ended questions aren’t of any value whatsoever for developing new ideas and creating conversation; they’re simply designed to reinforce truths that are already there.

An example of closed-ended questions is what we stereotypically associate with salespeople. These questions are designed to maneuver the prospective customer into answering “yes” over and over.

This forces the customer into eventually being committed to the answer that you want to sell them on. With these questions, the person asking them already knows the answer they want. No ideas, mindsets, or conversations have been developed.

Good questions keep things open ended.

Open-ended questions, on the other hand, are ones where you put yourself in the other person’s position in order to gain an understanding of something you don’t already know.

These types of questions lead to conversations that are the breeding ground for new ideas and greater trust.

When you’re asking these questions, don’t go to what you already know. Instead, take the opportunity to enter into unique territory where you’re looking at someone else’s experience in an entirely new way—and forcing them to as well. I think that anytime someone looks at their experience in an entirely new way, they generate new ideas and come to their own conclusions.

Their own answers are always going to be more interesting to them than your answers about their situation.


“People who ask great questions are always up to date and relevant.” Dan Sullivan
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Conversation is the key differentiator.

When we had the big economic downturn in the early 2000s, a lot of Strategic Coach participants were saying that their clients just weren’t buying.

I suggested that these entrepreneurs meet with their best clients and ask good questions in order to see what the clients were thinking.

I recommended that they start off with The R-Factor Question: “If we were meeting here three years from today, and you were to look back over those three years to today, what has to have happened in your life for you to feel happy about your progress?”

This question works in many different scenarios because the solutions to problems bogging you down in the present often can’t be found in your present perspective.

I encouraged these Coach entrepreneurs not to try to sell to their clients, or break in with solutions, but rather to just involve their clients in this conversation.

Not only did they differentiate themselves by asking open-ended questions and listening to their clients while everyone else was trying to sell to them, they also assisted the clients in seeing their lives in an entirely new way. The clients left with new ideas about what they could do next.

Everybody who ran with this idea reported back that they’d had the best quarter they’d ever had. So if this approach worked in the worst of economic times, my advice is that it’s always a better approach than trying to “sell.” Why not always try to have this type of conversation with prospects and clients instead?

It puts a handle on how to always be a fresh, exciting, and attractive entrepreneur: Make everything about a conversation, and only have conversations based on good questions where the other person is able to learn new things about their experience.

Ask specifically how the other person wants to see their future, and later reflect back to them in writing what you talked about.

I’ve never seen this not work.

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About the Author

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan is the world’s foremost expert on entrepreneurship in action. He is the founder of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of The Strategic Coach® Program. Visionary, creative, wise, playful, and generous, he is a true champion of entrepreneurs worldwide.

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